The Air Force will consider four locations — Davis-Monthan AFB, Ariz.; Homestead Air Reserve Base, Fla.; Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base Fort Worth, Texas; and Whiteman AFB, Mo. — as candidates for the first Reserve-led F-35A Lightning II units, officials said Tuesday.
The service expects to select the preferred and reasonable alternatives in the fall, with the fifth-generation fighter aircraft slated to begin arriving at the first location by the summer of 2023.
“The Air Force is committed to a deliberate and open process to address F-35 basing,” Jennifer Miller, deputy assistant secretary for installations, said according to a news release. “As we progress through the basing process, we will share information so interested communities are aware of what to expect.”
Separately, the Air Force released basing criteria to select candidate bases for two Air National Guard squadrons, which are scheduled to receive their first aircraft in the summer of 2022. The criteria include:
- mission requirements — weather, airspace and training range availability;
- capacity — sufficient hanger and ramp space, and facility considerations;
- environmental requirements; and
- cost factors.
The Air Force will evaluate Guard installations with runways of at least 8,000 feet and operational A-10 Thunderbolt IIs, F-16 Fighting Falcons or F-15 Eagles against the approved criteria to identify candidate bases for the F-35A, according to the release.
After identifying candidate bases, site survey teams from Air Combat Command and the Air National Guard will assess each location against operational requirements, potential impacts to existing missions, and infrastructure and manpower. Then the teams will develop cost estimates to bed down the F-35A.
Officials plan to identify candidates for the Air National Guard locations this summer before selecting the preferred and reasonable alternatives and beginning the environmental impact analysis process later this year.