Have you ever heard, the F-35 isn’t going to Davis-Monthan (D-M). “It’s going to TIA”..followed by the unsaid..dumby. We really aren’t sure yet if the F-35s are going to Tucson International Airport (TIA). It wasn’t on the preferred list, but the draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) will be coming to town in January. We’ll be sending out more information on the when and where.
What we are sure about is that Operation Snowbird, the Air National Guard program that operates out of Davis-Monthan, will likely have their “customers”, sister service and allied foreign pilots, who will bring their brand new F-35s to fly over Tucson as part of the OSB program. If allowed to continue to fly over Tucson’s urban areas, the F-35 will come in by the back door. About the year 2000, the Operation Snowbird program changed from a wintertime readiness program for mostly Air National Guard units in cold-bound locations to a year-round commercial-like combat training program for almost anyone in the friendly military. They could bring in their F-15s, F/A-18s, F-16s, Harriers, Tornados, you name it. There is no restriction on the type of aircraft that can be brought in for Operation Snowbird training at D-M. They built a fine facility in 2002, but they forgot to do an EIS for the aircraft that would be part of the new Operation Snowbird program. Some say they “gamed” the system and that this significantly changed program is in violation the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA).
The Air Combat Command has ordered that an Environmental Analysis (EA) be done, after the fact, of Operation Snowbird. The Army Corps of Engineers has contracted with a company in Baton Rouge, La to do the study. Some wonder if a company located close to New Orleans with focus on water, wetlands, and the Mississippi will know a lot about new fighter jets in the desert. There is some concern that they will take the easy way out and just accept the data the Air Force feeds them. The first public scoping meeting will be held by Gulf South on January 18th and 19th. Save the dates, January will be a busy month. See below how the F-35 will come to Davis-Monthan. Both the F/A 18s from Miramar Marine Corps Air Station and the Harriers from the Yuma Marine Corps Air Station have been part of the Davis-Monthan ANG Operation Snowbird program in the past. Both these aircraft are slated to be replaced by F-35s.
Arizona Daily Star, 12/10/10
Military to send F-35 to Yuma, 3 other sites
The military plans to put 400 of the Marine Corps’ new vertical-take off F-35B fighter jets at four installations in North and South Carolina, California and Yuma.
Navy documents released Thursday by Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham’s office say that up to 128 of the stealthy futuristic jets will be based in Cherry Point, N.C., and 88 aircraft and a training unit will go to Beaufort, S.C. Another 96 will be based at Miramar, Calif., and 88 will go to Yuma.
The documents say the jets will begin arriving in phases starting in 2012.
The jets are replacing aging F/A-18 Hornet aircraft, AV-8B Harrier jump jets and E/A-6 Prowlers.
The decision will send five operational squadrons with an additional test and evaluation unit to Marine Corps Air Station Yuma.