Members of Idaho's Congressional Delegation say today's announcement by the U.S. Air Force that neither Mountain Home Air Force Base nor Gowen Field made the initial list for a new F-35 mission is "disappointing," but does not mean Idaho's bases are out of the running for future F-35 missions. The Air Force says an initial review indicates a preference for locating the new fighter jets at locations other than Idaho. Delegation members, who were briefed by phone on the decision this morning, noted that they did receive assurances that both bases remain candidates for future F-35 missions.
"The Air Force determined that housing three squadrons of F-35s at Mountain Home or Gowen Field would have required additional construction costs. That determination is disappointing because all of the sites chosen will require new construction to accommodate three squadrons," said the Idaho delegation in a joint statement. "Other benefits should have factored into the decision besides initial cost savings. We will be taking a close look at the data used to reach this decision to ensure it was a transparent and apolitical process."
The Air Force's review indicates Hill Air Force Base in Utah and the Burlington Air Guard Station in Vermont are the preferred sites for operations for the F-35. Luke Air Force Base in Arizona was chosen as the preferred site for training missions for the F-35.
Idaho Senators Mike Crapo and Jim Risch and Congressmen Mike Simpson and Walt Minnick also noted that Gowen Field is in the running to receive an expanded mission for operations of the C-27J aircraft. The Boise base is one of two sites under consideration for operations for the Air Force cargo aircraft.
The C-27J is a twin turboprop engine aircraft designed for medium airland transport, according to the Air Force. It can provide access to airstrips otherwise unsuitable for fixed-wing aircraft.