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Air Force officials unveil new strategic basing process

A new process has been developed to define how Air Force experts make basing decisions.  The process was put into practice in selecting potential training and operational sites for the F-35 Lightning II joint strike fighter.  (U.S. Air Force graphic)

A new process has been developed to define how Air Force experts make basing decisions. The process was put into practice in selecting potential training and operational sites for the F-35 Lightning II joint strike fighter. (U.S. Air Force graphic)

WASHINGTON -- Senior Air Force officials have applied a new basing process to more than 200 sites for training and operational basing of the F-35 Lightning II joint strike fighter aircraft.

In fall 2008, Secretary of the Air Force Michael B. Donley and Air Force Chief of Staff Norton Schwartz sought to redefine how Air Force experts make basing decisions. The new basing process was put into practice as they prepare to base up to 1,763 planes between now and 2035.

"We created a process that was deliberate, repeatable and transparent with defined roles and responsibilities," said Kathleen Ferguson, deputy assistant secretary of the Air Force for Installations.

A team conducted a 9-month strategic review that began with a clear definition of operational requirements, progressed through selection criteria identification and culminated with an environmental analysis, Ms. Ferguson said.

To find the appropriate location for an aircraft basing, Air Force officials considered both objective and subjective factors. Basing criteria include but are not limited to airspace, flight training ranges, weather, support facilities and runways. Conversely, the process included commanders' considerations, or military judgment factors, such as operational plans, partnerships and global posture, training, logistics and total force integration.
"We are in a very aggressive timeline," Ms. Ferguson said. "After thorough research and review, we identified the first 11 potential candidate bases that could support initial delivery of 250-300 JSF aircraft between 2013 to 2017. We'll continue to re-evaluate every two years beyond that timeframe."

Eleven bases have been selected as candidate bases and include for training: Boise Air Terminal Air Guard Station, Idaho; Eglin Air Force Base, Fla.; Holloman AFB, N.M.; Luke AFB, Ariz.; and Tucson International Airport Air Guard Station, Ariz. The six bases selected as candidate bases for operations are: Burlington International Airport Guard Station, Vt.; Hill AFB, Utah; Jacksonville International Airport Air Guard Station, Fla.; Mountain Home AFB, Idaho; Shaw AFB, S.C.; and McEntire Air Guard Base, S.C.

Air National Guard leaders said they are pleased to have a greater role in the process, noting the unprecedented proportion -- nearly half -- of the candidate bases belonging to the component.

"Air National Guard leadership is really happy with this process," said Maj. Gen. Rick Moisio, deputy director of the Air National Guard. "This is the first time the ANG has been brought in on the early phases of fielding of an aircraft and we appreciate that."

Ms. Ferguson said the process has long-term potential because it helps the service in its efforts to modernize air and space inventories.

"The F-35 is the benchmark for our next generation of affordable, low-observable strike aircraft," Ms. Ferguson said. "We're excited to add it to our operational capabilities and believe it will play a major role in accomplishing the Air Force mission."