Idaho’s Mountain Home Air Force Base and Gowen Field in Boise are not on the U.S. Air Force’s preferred list for the F-35 program, which would work on training for the next generation of fighter pilots and provide a boost to the local economy.
Idaho’s congressional and state-level leaders, who lobbied for the Air Force to pick Idaho, said the decision is disappointing, but that it doesn’t rule out Idaho’s chances for future F-35 missions.
“We’re disappointed, but by no means are we defeated,” Gov. Butch Otter said in a news release. “It’s a long process for deploying an aircraft that will be in use for decades to come, and this is just round one. We’ll have more opportunities to get squadrons of F-35s based here in Idaho, with the careers and economic opportunity they will bring with them.”
The Air Force chose bases in Utah and Vermont as preferred alternatives for the operations portion of the F-35 mission, and a base in Arizona for the training portion.
“The Air Force determined that housing three squadrons of F-35s at Mountain Home or Gowen Field would have required additional construction costs,” Idaho’s congressional delegation said in a joint statement. “That determination is disappointing because all of the sites chosen will require new construction to accommodate three squadrons. “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.”
“This is not a final basing decision,” Kathleen Ferguson, the deputy assistant secretary of the Air Force for installations, said in a press release issued by the Air Force. “The preferred alternatives with other reasonable alternatives will continue to be evaluated.” A final decision has been expected for next year.
Gowen Field was picked by the Air Force as one of two candidates to be the operations base for the C-27J aircraft, a twin turboprop transport plane designed for use in areas with shorter airstrips for takeoff and landing.
Idaho lawmakers earlier this year endorsed Idaho’s bid for the F-35 program. Otter has said that landing the mission at both Mountain Home Air Force Base and Gowen Field could net 3,000 new jobs in Idaho. Some opponents to the F-35 program have cited complaints about noise near Boise.