As director of the Boise Airport, one of my key responsibilities, and privileges, is to ensure the airport attracts additional aviation services and related economic development to our region.
Naturally, attracting passenger air service is a significant focus area. However, there are many other business segments that are also vital to our community — such as air cargo and aerial firefighting. One pending opportunity is the potential conversion of the Idaho Air Guard at Gowen Field from the A-10 aircraft to the F-35. Although the retirement of the A-10 has been delayed, it is only a question of “when” not “if” the aircraft will be retired. While Gowen Field is one of five sites nationwide that is being considered for a future F-35 mission, it is the ideal location for three key reasons:
▪ It is a testament to the caliber of the airmen of the Idaho National Guard that the United States Air Force is considering stationing the F-35 — unarguably the most technically advanced aircraft in the world — at Gowen Field. More than ever, it will be critical for the Guard to be able to recruit people with technical skills and experience who are highly educated and willing to serve. Our Guard members have answered that call repeatedly.
▪ The demographics of the Boise area’s workforce will enable the Guard to retain and attract the expertise needed for this new mission.
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▪ The quality of the available infrastructure and the operating environment are unsurpassed. The moderate climate and the availability of existing, modern facilities are both advantages.
▪ Perhaps most importantly, the easy access to superior training ranges will further set Gowen apart. These ranges are often referred to as national treasures and are already used for F-35 training.
The Air Force has stated that the F-35 is its fighter aircraft of the future, so in order to maintain a manned flying mission for the Idaho Air National Guard, we should embrace this opportunity. If Gowen is selected for this mission by the U.S. Air Force, F-35s could arrive as early as 2022 and it would help to secure the future of Gowen for decades.
Having the F-35 at Gowen Field will be a change but it is a change the vast majority of people in the Treasure Valley support. True, the F-35 will be louder than the A10s that are currently based at Gowen, but they will actually have less impact than the F-4s that operated from Gowen for decades.
Losing the A-10s to retirement is difficult and change is inevitable, but having the F-35 at Gowen is also an opportunity. Supporting a replacement mission at Gowen Field is the right thing to do to continue the tradition of military service in the Idaho Air National Guard, to preserve its $155 million annual economic impact, and more importantly, to support our guardsmen and women who contribute their talents to our community and who already sacrifice so much in service to our country.
Rebecca Hupp is the director of the Boise Airport.