The Eglin ROD Goes Halfway

The Air Force announced Friday that it will bed down 59 F-35s at Eglin AFB, Fla., and allow associated construction to establish the Joint Strike Fighter Initial Joint Training Site there per BRAC 2005 guidance. This allows USAF to move the joint/international schoolhouse forward—partly. The service has deferred the decision on whether or not to beddown additional aircraft—reaching a total of 107—until it completes a supplemental environmental impact statement by September 2010. Kathleen Ferguson, USAF’s deputy assistant secretary for installations, signed the record of decision Feb. 5. The first F-35 is scheduled to touch down at Eglin in March 2010, and aircraft will continue arriving through 2014, Air Force officials said during a teleconference with reporters Feb. 6. The 59 aircraft will constitute one Air Force, one Marine Corps, and one Navy training squadron with 24, 20, and 15 assets, respectively. The ROD also imposes temporary operational restrictions on the aircraft to avoid and mitigate noise. Concerns expressed last year by some residents of Valparaiso, Fla., over the F-35’s noise levels held up USAF’s final decision. As the service progresses through the SEIS, Ferguson said, “We will ensure affected communities are involved through public scoping meetings, know what to expect, and understand timelines for development.”