The process of getting the Air Force’s F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program to Idaho is moving forward. According to Col. Tim Marsano, with the Idaho Air National Guard, the focus right now is on conducting environmental impact studies and community education programs. “We expect to have a draft environmental impact study come out this year. We’ve seen them already for other potential locations in California and North Carolina, for example.” The environmental studies should be finished by November, Marsano said, and a final decision on where the Air Force will station the F-35s by early next year.
Marsano said the Idaho Guard is trying to get three F-35 training squadrons based at Gowen Field, and three operational squadrons could be stationed at Mountain Home Air Force Base. The Navy and Marine Corps would have their own training bases for the F-35 variants specifically designed for those services; the F-35B, with its vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) capability for the Marines; and the aircraft carrier-capable F-35C for the Navy.
Gowen Field is in competition to host the Air Force's F-35 training school
One advantage to having the Air Force’s training program in such close proximity to the three operational squadrons is that it wouldn’t be much of a hardship on pilots’ families after the training is completed. “The pilot could come to Gowen Field for their one-year training session, then go right down the road to Mountain Home, where they’re stationed in an operational squadron. The longer the family’s in one place, the better.”
While the environmental studies are being conducted, Marsano is keeping busy answering questions from members of the community. He says a lot of rumors are being spread online about the F-35. One rumor is that the jet’s engines are louder than those of the F-15s and F-16s that routinely fly in and out of Gowen Field. “It (the rumor) states as fact that the F-35 is three times louder than current generation fighters. The Air Force Joint Strike Fighter office published a report, a scientific evaluation of the F-35 engines compared to current generation fighters, and determined the noise was very similar.”
Marsano welcomed anyone with questions or concerns to contact him personally at (208) 422-5268.
In all, about 1,700 of the Joint-Strike Fighters are expected to be added to the Air Force’s inventory during the years it is in production. The F-35 will also be used in eight foreign air forces, Marsano said.