WASHINGTON — The Air Force released basing criteria Aug. 11 that will be used to select candidate bases to establish additional permanent formal training units using F-16 Fighting Falcons from Hill Air Force Base.
“As a former F-16 pilot and squadron commander at Hill, I know, for many, the F-16 has been synonymous with Hill Air Force Base since the late ’70s. It has been a great platform, but this transition is exciting because it brings us another step closer to standing up three full F-35 squadrons,” said Col. David B. Lyons, 388th Fighter Wing commander. “With the F-35, Hill AFB is at the forefront of the 21st-century Air Force.”
A total of 45 F-16s are slated to transition from Hill AFB by 2018. Lyons said that no manpower at Hill will be lost as a result of the F-16 departure. Existing F-16 manpower will transition to support the F-35 mission.
The Air Force needs to increase fighter pilot production as part of the service’s efforts to address its fighter pilot shortage. However, establishing permanent FTUs takes time and the need for additional fighter pilot production is urgent.
Therefore, as an interim solution to increase fighter pilot training, the F-16s at Hill AFB will be temporarily moved to augment pilot training at up to two of the existing F-16 training locations: Luke AFB, Arizona; Holloman AFB, New Mexico; Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland’s Kelly Field Annex, Texas; or Tucson Air National Guard Base, Arizona.
Site surveys will begin at these four locations this week to gather detailed information on operational requirements, infrastructure capacity, environmental considerations and cost.
The basing criteria for the long-term permanent solutions 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 all installations in the continental United States with an existing fighter mission and a runway that is greater than or equal to 8,000 feet against the approved criteria to identify candidate bases for the F-16s.
After identifying candidate bases for the long-term permanent solution, Air Education and Training Command will conduct site surveys at each location as applicable. Site survey teams will assess each location against operational requirements, potential impacts to existing missions, infrastructure, environmental considerations and manpower. They will also develop cost estimates to bed down the F-16s.
Based on the results of these efforts, the Air Force plans to identify candidate installations for the F-16s later this year. The Air Force will use its environmental impact analysis process to analyze reasonable alternatives determined through the use of these criteria.
“The Air Force is committed to a deliberate and open process to address relocating the F-16s,” said Jennifer A. Miller, the deputy assistant secretary of the Air Force for installations. “As we progress through the basing process, we will share information so interested communities are aware of what to expect.”