Idaho military bases are finalists for new F-35 jet

Idaho military bases are finalists for new F-35 jet
MOUNTAIN HOME - A Mountain Home sports bar, a family owned and operated salon, both may be unlikely places to over-hear talks about U.S. Air Force combat aircraft.

But when residents like business owner Michael Huntington heard it could mean jobs and money for the town, word spread fast.

"It would bring a lot of people in," Huntington said. "Influx of money, influx of business."

Lt. Col. Tim Marsano, with the Idaho Air National Guard, says both Gowen Field and the Mountain Home Air Force Base are on the map as potential sites for the brand new F-35 fighter aircraft.

The jet has both air and ground attack capabilities. Marsano says it could possibly be nosier than the F-16's and A-10's that are already at Gowen. But he says the base takes being a good neighbor seriously and is available to answer any questions or concerns.

"We're very proud," Marsano said. "We think that our track record has a lot to do with this as well as the training facilities we have here in Idaho."

The Air Force narrowed its search from more than 200 sites, to only 11. Gowen Field and Mountain Home have both made the cut.

That means the state of the art fighter jets could take off in Idaho, in 2011.

If chosen, Marsano says the F-35 will replace the F-16's and A-10's. The Air Force is factoring in criteria like public opinion, environmental concerns and cost.

"This is by no means a done deal, but should we get these aircraft, we expect that it will keep the admission of the Idaho Air National Guard going well into the future," Marsano said.

Residents like George Yardley say they hope that means it will keep their businesses alive too.

"If they did bring another squadron to the base, it would help," Yardley said.

Now that the finalist sites are announced, the Air Force will continue surveys and evaluations, possibly turning the talk into a reality.