The Air Force announced Thursday that Holloman AFB, N.M., is the preferred interim location for two new squadrons devoted to training F-16 pilots. The squadrons will be activated “to increase fighter pilot production as part of an effort to address a critical fighter pilot shortage,” according to the Air Force. Forty-five F-16s are slated to arrive from Hill AFB, Utah, to begin training in the summer of 2017, and more instructor pilots and maintainers will be added to Holloman’s current manning. In the meantime, the Air Force is awaiting the results of an Environmental Impact Study to finalize the plans. Kelly Field, Texas, is being considered as a “reasonable alternative.” The Air Force is also evaluating 34 installations to select permanent homes for the squadrons. Candidate bases, which will be identified by early next year, must be in the continental US, must already have a fighter mission, and must have a runway at least 8,000 feet long. Hill began transitioning from the F-16 to the F-35 in 2014.
The U.S. supports “a stronger and more capable” European defense, Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III said during an Oct. 22 press conference in Brussels—but that defense should not duplicate the functions and capabilities of the NATO alliance.