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Eleven Air Force and Air Guard bases are on the short list to gain hundreds of F-35 fighters through 2017, the Air Force announced Oct. 29.
The announcement came as welcome news to bases slated to lose F-16s and F-15s as the Air Force retires 250 of the fighters during the next year. Communities across the country have launched campaigns to get the Joint Strike Fighter mission to their bases.
The Air Force proposed operating F-35s out of Hill Air Force Base, Utah; Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho; Shaw Air Force Base, S.C.; and two Air Guard bases. F-35s could be located at five active-duty and Air Guard bases for training.
Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., has already been named a training site for the F-35s, which are scheduled to begin arriving in August 2010.
Members of Congress representing the states that would receive the F-35s said they would keep the pressure on to bring the Joint Strike Fighters to their local bases.
"While the process isn't totally complete, this is a great day for Utah and Hill Air Force Base and marks a crucial milestone for Hill retaining a fighter mission in the years ahead," said Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, whose district includes Hill.
In Republican Sen. John McCain's home state of Arizona, two bases are in line to get F-35s.
"I will continue work to bring the F-35 to Luke Air Force Base and Tucson International Airport by engaging with the Air Force to ensure the final base selection process is fair," McCain said in a statement.
The 11 bases were selected after the Air Force evaluated 205 of its installations, ranking them on such factors as weather, available air space and existing facilities. The bases that were chosen are already home to fighter wings and have established training ranges, easing the transition to flying the stealthy, supersonic fighter.
The bases now be must be rated by an environmental assessment that considers issues such as noise impact on communities, construction requirements and how many daily flights the airfield can handle. The rankings will be announced in spring 2010, with final basing decisions planned for early 2011. The Air Force plans to field 350 F-35s by 2017.