Frequently Asked Questions

• How can I show my support for Tucson International Airport as a future training site for the F-35? show hide/answer

We're asking all Southern Arizonans who support the future possibility of the F-35 in Tucson to complete the online support form at This will help the Tucson Lightning campaign show local and Department of Defense leaders just how strong our community support is. Citizens can also voice their support when the federal government seeks public comment from community stakeholders during the public participation portion of the environmental impact study scheduled to take place throughout 2010. The future of the Arizona Air National Guard Base depends largely on your support. Check your local news outlets, or this Web site, for public comment events and let your voice be heard.

• Why was Tucson International Airport selected to be one of the candidate bases for the new F-35? show/hide answer

The 162nd Fighter Wing at Tucson International Airport was selected for its rare access to airspace for military training. The Barry Goldwater range in southwest Arizona, the state's largest, consists of 2.7 million acres of desert. Overhead are 57,000 cubic miles of airspace where fighter pilots can practice air-to-air maneuvers and engage simulated battlefield targets on the ground. Also, Arizona has year-round flying weather. Fighter pilots learning to fly in Arizona have the benefit of clear skies which allows for fewer cancelled training missions due to weather. Cancelled training due to weather can set a pilot back in his or her training schedule and can increase time in training and related costs. The unit also maintains an exemplary service and safety record due to the high level of experience of its maintainers and instructor pilots.

• Are there any noise issues related to the new F-35? show/hide answer

The Environmental Impact Study that will be conducted here throughout 2010 will consider the noise generated from the F-35 as part of its site-specific data collection. Lockheed Martin, the manufacturer of the F-35, in conjunction with the Air Force Research Lab, conducted an aircraft acoustics study on the F-35 in October 2008 at Edwards Air Force Base in California. The study found the takeoff and flyover noise generated from the F-35 comparable to the F-22 and F-18. Acoustic levels experienced by the public depend on a number of conditions, including topography, reflective structures, vegetation, weather (temperature, humidity and wind), time of day, observer location in relation to the aircraft, length of time the listener is exposed to aircraft, and total number of flight operations per year. Acoustic levels also depend on flight profiles such as aircraft configuration, aerodynamics, power settings, approach & departure profiles, and air speed. The Air Force is in the process of validating the study results and should the F-35 come here the unit will have plans in place to mitigate any perceived differences.

• Why should I care about preserving the future of the Arizona Air National Guard? show/hide answer

Every Arizonan should care deeply about the future of the Arizona Air National Guard's 162nd Fighter Wing in Tucson. The men and women who volunteer to enter the Air National Guard and serve our country and state are extraordinary people. They go to work each day to protect our freedom and security; a job that is vital to all of us in a world that is currently an unstable place. Our Guardsmen are currently involved in two wars and unfortunately, there are more countries who do not value the kind of freedom or human rights we enjoy here in the U.S. Together as a community we can ensure our Airmen and our allies are prepared to respond when the need arises. Through the 162nd Fighter Wing our military personnel and our allies receive the best possible pilot training. Since unit began in 1956, Arizona Guardsmen have trained and graduated more than 6,800 fighter pilots. Arizona has the ideal climate, land, airspace, training ranges and facilities needed to train in the next generation jet fighter. Therefore, bringing the F-35 training mission to Tucson is the next logical step. Also, our military installations represent one of the largest economic generators in the state. Collectively, Arizona's military facilities employ 83,000 active duty personnel, Guardsmen, reservists and civilians and contribute $9.1 billion annually to Arizona's economy. The 162nd Fighter Wing alone brings $280 million annually to the state's economy and employs more people in the area than Home Depot stores, General Dynamics or Northrop Grumman. In today's challenging economy we should do all that we can to keep the state's largest employers and revenue generators right here in Arizona. We should do everything possible to protect the Arizona Air National Guard and our other military bases in Arizona.

• What are the benefits of Tucson International Airport becoming an F-35 training base? show/hide answer

The F-35 will enable Tucson to continue its critical role in our nation's defense long after 2025 when the Air Force projects it will retire its F-16 fleet. The new mission will mean our Guardsmen and their families will continue to spend money here and student pilots will continue to live on the economy long after 2025. In addition, the Air National Guard purchases a large amount of goods and services locally from private-sector companies throughout Tucson. In fact, the economic impact of the 162nd Fighter Wing to the local economy is $280 million annually. Thus, the F-35 mission will sustain that positive impact for decades to come. As a more immediate benefit, if the wing makes the final selection list Tucson can anticipate receiving a large investment, millions of dollars, from the federal government for construction-related projects for F-35 bed down. Those projects would translate to a direct impact on Tucson's economy through additional construction jobs.

• What has the community done in the past to help the Arizona Air National Guard in Tucson? show/hide answer

The 162nd Fighter Wing Minuteman Committee, Inc. was formed in 1993 by a group of local businessmen that were concerned about the future of the 162nd Fighter Wing of the Arizona Air National Guard. At that time, the Chief of Staff of the United States Air Force made the statement that all F-16 flight training should be done by the United States Air Force and not the Air National Guard. This would have meant a tremendous loss of jobs for the 162nd Fighter Wing and would have had a major impact on the Southern Arizona economy. This new committee extended an invitation to the then Secretary of the Air Force, Ms. Sheila Widnall, to visit the unit before any change in the unit's mission was finalized. Secretary Widnall visited the 162nd March 24, 1994, and was welcomed by then committee president, Mr. Bruce Beach. She was given a unit briefing and a tour of the base facilities. One of the major points in the briefing was the $150 million dollar local economic impact of the wing's international training programs at the time. After Secretary Widnall returned to Washington DC, the recommended change made by the Chief of Staff to assign all flight training to the active duty Air Force was not implemented. Instead, the unit expanded its pilot training to include 13 international customers. Today, the wing has trained pilots from 24 different countries that fly the F-16 and its economic impact in Tucson has almost doubled. Its mission is even more vital today than it was in 1993, and with great community support we can ensure its future success.

• Why is the Air Force planning to phase out the F-16 and what does this mean to the Arizona Air National Guard's current training mission? show/hide answer

The Air Force began flying the F-16 Fighting Falcon in 1979. They first came to Tucson in 1985. The age of today's fleet ranges between 20 and 30 years old. Even though the Air Force intends to retire its fleet by 2025, there is a possibility that the 162nd Fighter Wing will continue to train America's partner nations in the aircraft beyond 2025, but the F-16 mission in Tucson will eventually completely dissipate. The planned replacement for the F-16 is the F-35 joint strike fighter, which is the military's new and improved fighter jet. Having the F-35 come to Tucson is the next step in our military development and national protection. There is a real possibility that the base at Tucson Airport will fly both F-16s and F-35s for a time should it make the final selection list for the new aircraft. In addition to the Air Force, the F-35 will be used by the Navy and Marine Corps, as well as eight foreign militaries.

• Will the takeoffs, landings or flight patterns change if Tucson International Airport becomes an F-35 training base? Will the number of daily flights change? show/hide answer

If F-35s come to Tucson, their takeoffs, landings and flight patterns, as well as their number of daily training flights, can be expected to resemble those of the F-16 currently flying here. The 162nd Fighter Wing's current flight operations are typically from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday. Flights may occur on weekends, due to unit training assemblies usually scheduled on the first weekend of the month. The wing also flies evenings on an average of one week per month, but all flights land about one hour after sunset. The 162nd currently flies between 40 to 60 training missions a day.

• Is the Arizona Air National Guard at Tucson International Airport in competition with Luke Air Force Base for the new F-35?show/hide answer

No. There is no competition between the Air Guard and Luke for F-35. Luke and the 162nd Fighter Wing are both currently F-16 training units, yet there are differences in who they train. Luke, an active duty Air Force base, is the largest training wing in the world with more than 160 aircraft. Luke trains more than 50 percent of the Air Force's fighter pilots and 90 percent of its F-16 pilots. The 162nd is the largest Air National Guard fighter wing in the country with more than 60 aircraft for Air National Guard and international pilot training. Both Luke and the 162nd are viable candidates because of these differences. Also, the Air National Guard's goal for the next fighter is to achieve a concurrent and proportional distribution between active component and Reserve component units. The idea is to find a balance in the allocation of F-35's among the active duty, Guard and Reserve that is in line with requirements to meet steady state operational commitments, to provide for a strategic reserve for war time needs, and to support the desired use of the Reserve component for operational missions.

• Does the Arizona Air National Guard's selection as an F-35 candidate base have any impact on Davis-Monthan's future as an F-35 candidate base?show/hide answer

The selection of the Air National Guard base at Tucson International Airport as an F-35 candidate should not be considered an indication about the future of F-35 at nearby Davis-Monthan Air Force Base. The Air Force projects that it will base 1,763 F-35 Lightning IIs by 2035. This initial list of candidate training bases, which includes Luke Air Force Base and Tucson's 162nd Fighter Wing, is being considered for only the first 250 to 300 aircraft. This leaves roughly 1,500 F-35's that will need homes at various Air Force installations over the next 25 years. The operational history of Davis-Monthan and its proximity to the Barry M. Goldwater Range Complex supports its strong candidacy for a fighter presence. After all, the F-35 is designed as an eventual replacement for the A-10 currently flown at Davis-Monthan and programmed to fly until 2028. Ultimately, the Air Force will decide future locations and aircraft distribution schedules based on a transparent, repeatable process that will, by law, include input from the public.

• How does the USAF do aircraft basing?show/hide answer

The Air Force is committed to a repeatable, defendable and transparent basing process. The Air Force is executing an enterprise-wide look for basing the aircraft. This enterprise-wide look enhances our ability to create, protect and sustain all air and space forces across the full range of military operations. Specifically with regards to the F-35, the Air Force is in the process of evaluating more than 200 Air Force sites for training and operational basing of 250-300 F-35 aircraft.

• Can you explain the steps the Air Force is taking for the basing of the F-35?show/hide answer

The Air Force uses a deliberate, repeatable and transparent process to identify potential locations for our missions. The process begins with a clear definition of operational imperatives; progresses through selection criteria identification, and culminates with an environmental analysis prior to final site determination. Depending on when assessments and requirements are complete, the process can take approximately 2 years.

• What criteria were used to develop the list of candidate bases for F-35?show/hide answer

The basing criteria as approved by the Secretary and Chief of Staff of the Air Force are airspace, flight training ranges, weather, support facilities, runways, taxi ramps, environmental concerns and cost factors. Military judgment factors applied include operational plans, building partnerships and global posture, along with military efficiencies such as training, logistics and total force integration.

• For installations that didn't make the initial F-35 basing list, will there be other opportunities to be considered?show/hide answer

Yes. The first basing decisions will identify the training and operational basing for nearly 300 F-35 aircraft. Formal Environmental Impact Surveys will be completed for the preferred locations and reasonable alternative, with records of decision issued in 2011. However, the Air Force has currently programmed to purchase up to a total of 1,763 aircraft between 2013 and 2035. As such, the basing process will be repeated every two years for future bases.

• If an installation announced as an initial basing candidate doesn't pass the EIS process, would another base move up on the list?show/hide answer

Formal Environmental Impact Surveys (EIS) will be completed for the preferred locations and reasonable alternatives, with records of decision issued in 2011. The selected installation(s) will come from the list of preferred and alternative candidate bases analyzed during the EIS process.

• When will the Air Force conduct its next round of basing decisions for the F-35?show/hide answer

The process will begin in 2011.

• What has the Air Force been doing to share noise modeling results with the communities surrounding candidate bases?show/hide answer

The Air Force is committed to being a good neighbor to the communities selected for F-35 basing. Noise modeling results are provided to the public in the draft and final environmental impact statement. The noise contours and the analysis will be in the main body of the document, and greater detailed information on noise levels at selected sites will be included in the appendix of the supplemental EIS. The supplemental EIS will contain additional information to help the public better understand what they will experience from proposed F-35 operation.

• Based on what is known from F-35 data today, what type of long term impact could the noise pollution from the F-35 have on the health of our community?show/hide answer

Until the modeling is completed the Air Force does not know what, if any, long term impacts might result. The EIS contains a summary of scientific literature on general noise impacts based on long-term exposure. This same information will be included in context with the noise modeling and analysis results in the environmental impact statement for all locations.

• At what point does the noise impact become so adverse that it eliminates a base from contention?show/hide answer

Noise alone is not being used as a basis for eliminating a base from contention. Noise impacts will be analyzed for those bases selected for further analysis under the National Environmental Policy Act.

• How do you determine how noise from overflights adversely affects a community?show/hide answer

The Department of Defense uses the Day Night Average Sound Level (DNL) noise metric. DNL is used by all Federal agencies for predicting human annoyance and other potential noise affects on humans. DNL takes into account the entire exposed population rather than just a few individuals. The primary adverse effect represented by DNL is the percent of the public that is highly annoyed. This DNL metric represents the average of all noise events that occur over a 24-hour period and includes a penalty for late night flights. It does not represent the sound level actually heard by the population at any given time.

• Can the F-35 be modified to make it quieter?show/hide answer

The office of Naval Research is looking at how to reduce aircraft noise in general, but not necessarily for the F-35. Additionally, until modeling is complete, the Air Force does not know what, if any mitigation actions are required. However, if mitigation is needed the primary form of mitigating aircraft noise impacts is to modify where, (flight track), how (climb-out procedures) and when (time of day) the aircraft fly so long as these changes do not negatively impact the base flying mission or create a "negative training" situation.

• Have international partners been provided noise data associated with the F-35?show/hide answer

Yes, international partners have been provided the technical noise data required for them to conduct the same type of basing analyses the DOD is conducting on the F-35 aircraft.