The Air Force will file a draft Environmental Impact Statement for the proposed establishment of an F-35 Lightning II pilot training center within the continental United States Jan 20.

The current Air Force and Air National Guard installations under consideration are: Boise Air Terminal Airport Air Guard Station, Idaho; Holloman AFB, N.M.; Luke AFB, Ariz.; and Tucson International Airport Air Guard Station, Ariz.

“Candidate installations were identified through a deliberate process that began with a clear definition of training requirements and progressed through a screening process,” said Kathleen Ferguson, Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Installations. “For planning purposes, the Air Force is analyzing the impacts of basing increments of 24 aircraft, from 24 to 144, depending on capacity at the candidate installations.”

Luke AFB is the Air Force’s preferred alternative for the pilot training center. No final decisions regarding the training center’s location will be made until after the environmental impact analysis is complete.

The F-35A is a fifth-generation fighter aircraft designed with stealth, maneuverability and integrated avionics to assume multi-role missions. The Air Force views the fifth-generation aircraft integral to the future of strike aviation and to counter emerging anti-access/area denial threats.

“Our aging fourth-generation aircraft lack modern stealth technology and integrated avionics, and will become increasingly less useful against burgeoning adversary anti-access and area-denial strategies and capabilities such as air defense systems, radars, missiles, and aircraft,” Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz said. “As such, we remain committed to the fifth-generation F-35, which represents the future of tactical aviation for the Air Force.”

The Draft environmental impact statement for the F-35A pilot training center opens a 45-day public comment period ending March 14. The Air Force will conduct 13 public hearings at locations surrounding the potentially impacted communities to receive oral and written comments on the Draft EIS, Ferguson said.

“The Air Force is committed to planning future activities while considering environmental and community impacts and minimizing them where practical,” she said. “A final decision will be reflected in a Record of Decision expected in the summer of 2012.”

The Federal Aviation Administration and U. S. Marine Corps are cooperating agencies in the EIS process.
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