October 30, 2009 (by Lieven Dewitte) - The Air Force is proposing to house the next-generation F-35 fighter at Utah's Hill Air Force Base, according to Utah congressional offices.
The offices said Hill has been proposed as one of three bases to house operations of the stealthy F-35 Lightning, along with Mountain Home, Idaho, and Shaw, S.C. They said the three were chosen for that duty out of more than 200 bases.
Technically, the Air Force calls the three bases its "preferred candidates" to house the F-35.
Many factors go into the final selection including Air Force operational and strategic needs, force structure changes, aircraft retirements, affordability, the use of existing assets and the environmental evaluation.
Rep. Rob Bishop, a Utah Republican, said in a statement: "We've gone through the swimsuit competition and now it’s time for the evening gown portion. This is good news for Hill Air Force Base."
Officials said barring problems with soon-to-be-performed environmental impact statements, Hill and the other two bases should be the new homes to the F-35, and Hill should eventually receive one to three squadrons of them.
The decision could help ensure the long-term future of Hill. The Air Force has planned to phase out the F-16s that are currently housed there.
Air Force officials are expected to make their final decisions on where the F-35s will be based in 2011.