As the inevitable retirement of the A-10 Thunderbolt II “Warthog” aircraft mission at Gowen Field approaches, a celebrated legacy paves the way for Idaho’s next opportunity to contribute to our national defense while enhancing our own economy.
As one of five finalists for the job of hosting a contingent of F-35 Lightning II joint strike fighters, the Idaho Air National Guard is ready for its next flying mission at Gowen Field.
Gowen Field has historically served as a training center for military aircraft, hosting nine manned aircraft missions during the past 70 years. The F-35 represents the next generation of fighter jets — armed with advanced technology that is critical to today’s armed forces — and the next great opportunity for Idaho to prove its military mettle.
Idaho’s temperate climate, ample airspace and similarity to combat environments make Boise and Gowen Field an ideal training atmosphere for the F-35 mission. What’s more, having a flying mission based at Gowen Field would have a tremendous impact on Idaho’s economy.
Gowen Field already supports more than 2,800 direct, indirect and related jobs, representing more than $136 million a year in income for the families involved and contributing more than $155 million in total economic impact. And Idaho stands to gain a significant number of additional civilian job opportunities with the new flying mission since many of the F-35 aircraft support systems are maintained by civilian contractors who would work on and around Gowen Field.
Idaho Air National Guard personnel also contribute immeasurably to the fabric of our Treasure Valley communities in ways that extend far beyond their military service. And as the population center of Idaho, the Treasure Valley provides unmatched career opportunities for our citizen soldiers and airmen — many of whom work as teachers, engineers and police officers. Not only are these men and women making an important contribution to our military, they are our neighbors, friends and family members.
Having a flying mission for the Idaho Air National Guard in Boise would provide a tremendous contribution to our national defense while helping to secure the future of an important fixture in Idaho’s economy and our way of life.
Idaho’s history of providing elite airspace and support for flying missions has helped to position Boise’s Gowen Field as a national leader for the kind of mission the F-35s would bring. Please join me in supporting this important project for our community, our state and our country.
Megan Ronk is the director of the Idaho Department of Commerce.