Boise & Garden City

Boise on Air Force short list for F-35s

F-35A testing and evaluation at Mountain Home Air Force Base

Listen to Major Chris "Trench" White describe the F-35A's testing and evaluation at Mountain Home Air Force base in Mountain Home, Idaho. Six F-35A jets are at Mountain Home Air Force Base for testing and evaluation.
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Listen to Major Chris "Trench" White describe the F-35A's testing and evaluation at Mountain Home Air Force base in Mountain Home, Idaho. Six F-35A jets are at Mountain Home Air Force Base for testing and evaluation.

Boise's Gowen Field is one of five locations the U.S. Air Force is considering as a base for about 18 F-35 fighter jets, the Idaho National Guard announced Wednesday.

If Gowen is selected, the F-35s would replace 21 A-10 warplanes now based here. A lot work has to be done before such a decision could be made, including an Environmental Impact Study and a facility validation inspection, according to the Idaho Guard.

The new fleet likely wouldn't arrive in Boise until 2021 or 2022.

The Air Force and Guard will face intense public dissent if they decide to base F-35s here. Hundreds of people who live near the Boise Airport — which allows the Guard to use its runways — say the F-35 and F-15, another loud Air Force Fighter jet that’s been discussed as a replacement for Boise’s A-10s, are too noisy to be taking off and landing in Idaho's most densely populated area.

Airport officials and City Hall have spent the last year responding to angry residents who think the city and Federal Aviation Administration are manipulating information about the F-35 and F-15 to downplay the noise those aircraft produce with the goal of convincing the public to go along with basing a wing of those jets here.

Boise blogger David Frazier, one of hundreds of outspoken opponents of basing F-35s in Boise, challenged decision makers Wednesday to bring the aircraft to Boise and follow standard takeoff and landing procedures, demonstrating exactly how loud next-generation fighter is.

The A-10, which has a top speed of 440 mph, is much slower and quieter than either the F-35 or F-15. On the other hand, the aircraft that preceded the A-10 in Boise was a version of the F-4, which is about as loud as the F-15, one of the fastest jets in the Air Force fleet.

Local and state politicians are keen on keeping some sort of military flying mission — and the economic benefit it delivers — in Boise. The Air Force has proposed moving it to Mountain Home Air Force Base. All four members of Idaho’s congressional delegation celebrated the Air Force’s announcement in a news release Wednesday.

As long as the Air Force has contemplated retiring the decades-old A-10, Congress has resisted, in part because its members want a replacement aircraft that specializes in attacking ground targets before the A-10 is grounded.

The Idaho Air National Guard also wants to maintain its Boise flying mission. Guard leaders worry that moving the fleet to Mountain Home would hamper recruiting and retention of air personnel.

Meanwhile, the future of the F-35, the most costly weapons system in American history, is not certain. The Department of Defense has asked to increase production of the aircraft next year, but its effectiveness is widely questioned. President-elect Donald Trump has expressed reservations about the F-35.

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