Maintaining a Presence

South Dakota stands to gain as a future home to next-generation combat aircraft. The Air Force is considering basing F-35A Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters at the Air National Guard’s Joe Foss Field in Sioux Falls, according to a Jan. 14 release by Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), citing USAF’s forthcoming weapons systems roadmap due out this week. Further, USAF is eyeing Ellsworth Air Force Base near Rapid City, currently home to B-1B bombers, as a potential home for the new bomber that USAF wants to field in 2018, according to Thune. The roadmap, which Gen. Michael Moseley will issue, identifies the potential beddown locations for future platforms like the F-35 and the next generation bomber as well as the KC-X tanker, CSAR-X helicopter, and F-22 fighter. Joss Foss Field currently is home to 18 Air Guard F-16s that eventually will be phased out after the F-35 enters service around 2013. The Argus Leader reports that Sioux Falls is one of 33 potential locations for the F-35 while Ellsworth is one of four spots being considered for the 2018 bomber. Per US law, these sites would have to undergo thorough studies of the environmental impact of hosting the new aircraft before final approval. The F-35, for example, is louder than the F-16 and may not be suitable for every current F-16 base.