The Air Force filed the draft environmental impact statement for its first set of preferred operational basing locations for the F-35 strike fighter. Hill AFB, Utah, is the preferred Active Duty alternative and Burlington AGS, Vt., is the preferred Air National Guard location. However, the Air Force also is considering Jacksonville AGS, Fla.; McEntire JNGB, S.C.; Mountain Home AFB, Idaho; and Shaw AFB, S.C. “The Air Force is analyzing the impacts of basing three squadrons of 24 aircraft each at the Active Duty location and one squadron of 24 aircraft at the Air National Guard location,” said Kathleen Ferguson, USAF’s installations chief. The Air Force on April 13 announced the draft EIS’ release. Service officials now will conduct 17 public hearings near potentially impacted communities through May to receive citizens’ feedback. A final decision on the Active Duty base and ANG location is expected this fall. “We remain committed to the future of the F-35, which represents the future of tactical aviation for the Air Force,” said Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz. Aircraft beddown would begin in 2015, according to the draft EIS executive summary (caution, very large-sized file). (Washington, D.C., report by Mitch Gettle)
U.S. Air Force F-35s and F-22s regularly deploy deep into the Pacific region from Alaska, Utah, and Hawaii. In the future, though, the head of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command would like to see the Air Force permanently station fifth-generation aircraft west of the international date line—closer to China.