Friday, February 6, 2009

US Air Force Makes Bed Down Decision on F-35 Joint Strike Fighter

Air Force officials have decided to bed down 59 F-35 Joint Strike Fighter aircraft and to allow associated construction to begin at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. In this photo over Fort Worth, Texas, F-35 Lightning II test aircraft AA-1 undergoes a flight check. (Photo courtesy of Lockheed Martin)

Focus on Defense:

WASHINGTON, Feb. 6, 2009 -- Air Force officials have decided to bed down 59 F-35 Joint Strike Fighter aircraft and to allow associated construction at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., to begin, implementing a BRAC 2005 decision. The decision also imposes temporary operational limitations on JSF flight training activities both to avoid and to minimize noise impacts.

This decision requires a supplemental environmental analysis be conducted to study operational alternatives and noise mitigations for the 59 aircraft authorized to be delivered under this decision. The analysis is scheduled for completion in September 2010.

"The Air Force has heard the communities' concerns and is taking them seriously," said Kathleen Ferguson, deputy assistant secretary for installations. "We are undertaking the supplemental analysis to evaluate alternatives to operating the F-35 as well as ways to mitigate the noise.

"As we move forward," she said, "the Air Force is committed to an open, transparent process to address and resolve bed down issues for the Joint Strike Fighter. We will ensure affected communities are involved through public scoping meetings, know what to expect, and understand timelines for development. A decision on whether to bed down additional aircraft will be deferred until completion of the subsequent environmental analysis."

This decision allows for construction of facilities for the Joint Strike Fighter Integrated Joint Training Site, which includes instructor pilots, operations and maintenance support personnel, front-line and instructor qualified maintenance technicians and logistics support personnel.

The 59 aircraft provide an initial capability of one squadron each for the Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps. The first aircraft is scheduled to arrive in March 2010 and the aircraft would continue arriving through 2014.

It is anticipated that with the arrival of the 7th Special Forces Group and additional F-35 related activities there will be an increase of approximately 4,000 personnel and more than 6,000 dependents. Military construction is expected to bring another $700 million to the area.

(Report from a U.S. Air Force news release.)

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