The short list will soon become shorter.
As early as this summer, the Pentagon is expected to cull down its choices of where to base training and where to base operations of the F-35, according to Bibiana Nertney, administrator with Idaho's Commerce Department. Currently Boise's Gowen Field is on the short list of five military bases for training. Mountain Home Air Force Base is on a separate short list of six for operational facilities.
On Tuesday, federal, state and local officials were invited to Gowen to check out an F-35 Lightning II Cockpit Demonstrator in a very impressive show-and-tell. Citydesk even got some time in the faux cockpit.
However, there was no demonstration of just how loud the F-35s would be, which remains a topic of debate in the Treasure Valley. Though there are 40,000 pounds of thrust from the F-35, "You won't know the difference between this and the Eagle," said Bill Diehl, of Lockheed Martin, manufacturers of the jets.
Diehl was comparing the F-35 to other modern aircraft like the F-15s that were housed at Gowen Field last summer. Diehl said one major difference is that the F-35 should not have an "afterburner," as the modern jet fighter holds all of its fuel internally—there are no external fuel tanks.
To date, Lockheed has built 19 "test" F-35s and 32 more are currently in production, according to Diehl. "We're in year number nine of a 13-year development and demonstration phase," said Diehl.
As for the decision-making process, once the short lists become shorter, yet another team from the Pentagon will visit the sites. Final decisions are expected in 2011.