Officials working out details on F-35 future

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Kenny Wilder
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Sun Nov 23, 2008 4:09 pm

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Pensacola News Journal
November 22, 2008

Officials working out details on F-35 future

Paul Flemming
News Journal capital bureau

The U.S. Air Force on Friday delayed a final decision on how it will accommodate training for the Joint Strike Fighter F-35 at Eglin Air Force Base.

The non-decision leaves residents in Santa Rosa and Okaloosa counties unsure of how loud takeoffs will affect them in coming years as the F-35 training program ramps up, giving them instead an undefined further round of public hearings and input.

The Air Force did, however, move forward with moving the Army's 7th Special Forces Group to Eglin from North Carolina's Fort Bragg.

Some 2,200 military members and 4,000 family members are expected to move to the area in the summer of 2011.

Still in development, the F-35 is the military's next-generation fighter. By 2016, 113 F-35s are set to be at Eglin, with the first jets in place by 2010.

The F-35 and transfer of the Special Forces — both the result of congressional base realignment — mean an estimated $679 million in construction spending for the area.

The Air Force announced an "evolving" round of decisions that will try to allay residents' concerns as the F-35 program progresses.

"The Air Force cares about the community around Eglin and understands the issues raised," said Kathy Ferguson, deputy assistant secretary for installations with the Air Force.

That didn't satisfy Valparaiso Mayor Bruce Arnold. The city has filed suit against the government seeking access to technical details it says it's been denied.

"I want commitments, I don't want 'We'll talk.' I'd be selling our residents short," Arnold said.

The Air Force's environmental impact study concludes that up to 350 acres of residential property in Valparaiso and neighboring Niceville faces noise so loud that homes are "strongly discouraged."

Arnold said current options threaten the existence of Valparaiso and its 6,500 residents.

"We've suggested all sorts of things," Arnold said of alternatives to the use of two existing Eglin runways for the F-35 training. "They say they are considering them, but we get nothing.''

Arnold emphasized that he and the city appreciate Eglin.

"In Valparaiso, we're proud to be the home of Eglin Air Force Base," Arnold said. "We're confident with the right people we can solve these problems."

The Air Force says that will happen.

"The Air Force is really open to consider all options to help minimize impact to the community as well as maintain our ability to fly. We plan to make an additional decision in late 2010," Ferguson said.
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Mon Nov 24, 2008 7:38 am

This reminds me of a previous Air Force assignment I had.
The town (which had grown out towards the base) complained about the noise of the fighters.
The Air Force moved the fighters to another location in another state.
The base, with one less reason to be there, closed within a few years.
The town lost business, property values fell, etc.
(p.s. the part of that base where I used to live and work is now a federal prison camp)
Last edited by Pete on Tue Nov 25, 2008 6:57 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Mon Nov 24, 2008 9:41 am

Food for thought! Thanks, Pete.

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Mon Nov 24, 2008 3:32 pm

Pete, we in the US seem to have a penchant for the "biting-the-hand-that- feeds-us" mentality. As for our household, we have a deep appreciation of the military and that's one reason we love this part of FL!

Welcome home soon, A.F. F-35 team! Thank you for your part in maintaining our freedom!

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