Boise & Garden City

Boise Mayor Bieter: Air Force might hold off on decommissioning Gowen Field’s A-10s

Boise Mayor Dave Bieter said he had only a few brief chances to speak to U.S. Air Force leaders about the fate of Gowen Field’s A-10 mission while in Montgomery, Ala., two weeks ago.

Nothing’s certain yet, Bieter said, but based on those conversations and others he’s had with people around the military, he believes the Air Force might delay its move to ground the 22 A-10s based at Gowen Field, the Idaho Air Guard base, for a few years.

It all depends on the budgets Congress sets, Idaho National Guard spokesman Tim Marsano said.

“We don’t anticipate losing the A-10 in (fiscal year) 2016,” Marsano said. “But nothing is absolutely decided.”

The federal government’s next fiscal year runs from October to September 2016.

“Beyond that, I would hate to predict what the future might hold,” Marsano said.

Mostly, Bieter was in Alabama to attend the annual National Security Forum at the Air Force’s Air War College. The three-day event, to which Bieter received an invitation from Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James, briefed about 160 people from around the country on a variety of national security topics.

“We got a whole lot of context,” Bieter said. “We talked about Syria, Pakistan, Russia, China and parts of the Middle East. A CIA presenter talked only about the CIA.”

News broke early last year that the Air Force was planning to decommission the A-10, a 40-year-old design meant to support ground troops, over the next five years. One proposal was to move the Idaho Guard’s air fleet operations to Mountain Home Air Force Base.

Another proposal was to keep the fleet in Boise and replace the A-10 with the F-15E, a high-speed jet designed in the 1970s that can hit air and ground targets, or the F-35, a cutting-edge, single-seat stealth fighter that can carry out a variety of missions, such as air-to-air combat, ground strikes, electronic attacks and reconnaissance, according to Lockheed Martin, the plane’s manufacturer.

A move to the F-15 or F-35 is also uncertain, Bieter said.