Guest Opinions

Secure the F-35 for the Guard, and then fund the third Boise runway

Paul Desaulniers
Paul Desaulniers

The proposed replacement of the A-10 at Gowen Field with the F-35 has stoked passions on both sides of the issue. Those supporting the F-35, including our congressional delegation, Governor Otter, Mayor Bieter and the Boise Chamber of Commerce, champion the importance of a continued Air National Guard mission in Boise. However, residents living near the airport concerned about increased jet noise should be heard and respected. Boise Elevated would like to help bring clarity to the issue and offer a viable solution for all concerned.

When the A-10 is eventually retired, continuing the Guard mission at Gowen with the F-35 is important not only to the region’s economy, but also to the nation’s defense. The Guard routinely deploys to fly combat missions fighting terrorism. These brave men and women should have the best support our country can provide, whether it is the training ranges that are unique to Idaho or the quality of life that Guard members gain for their families with the opportunity to live and serve in the Boise area.

We understand that the F-35 is a much louder airplane than the A-10 and has a noise profile that is comparable to other modern fighter jet fighters, like the F-15 or the F-4, previously based at Gowen. Still, suggested alternatives to the F-35 at Gowen, such as asking the Air Force for a different manned mission to keep the Idaho Air Guard alive or moving the mission to Mountain Home, are not realistic or viable alternatives.

Officials suggest the F-35 will only operate 10 minutes in the morning and 10 minutes in the afternoon. This is the baseline goal. There will likely be periods of relative quiet while the aircraft are deployed or placed on stand-down. There will also be times that operational necessity dictates the F-35 fly more sorties in a day than is projected.

A viable solution is that upon securing the F-35 mission, the city of Boise should accelerate development of the third runway (that is already included in the airport’s master plan). Accelerated development of the third runway would both support the Guard mission and significantly mitigate airport noise concerns by moving the noise impact away from existing residential areas.

Given the current focus on increased infrastructure spending at the federal level, combined with the importance of the F-35 to our national security, now is the time for our congressional delegation to work together to obtain federal funding for the third runway. The federal government derives significant value from the Boise Airport for the National Interagency Fire Center, as well as for military operations. Federal funding of the estimated $100 million cost to build a third runway — roughly the cost of just one F-35 — makes sense.

Boise Elevated has taken the time to interview representatives from both sides of the argument before arriving at our opinion. If the F-35 replaces the A-10, and we hope it does, building the third runway with federal funds solves issues important to immediate and long-term growth and quality of life in Boise.

Paul Desaulniers is a retired Navy officer, operations manager in the telecom industry, and a board member of Boise Elevated.