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Oct. 30, 2009—The Air Force on Thursday issued its list of 11 candidate bases that are the potential beddown locations for the first 250 to 300 F-35 stealth fighters that are scheduled to enter its inventory by 2017.

On the short list of operational bases are: Hill AFB, Utah; Mountain Home AFB, Idaho; and Shaw AFB, S.C., as well as McEntire Joint National Guard Base, S.C., and the Air National Guard stations in Burlington, Vt., and Jacksonville, Fla. On the short list of training locations are: Eglin AFB, Fla.; Holloman AFB N.M.; and Luke AFB, Ariz., as well as the ANG stations in Boise, Idaho, and Tuscon, Ariz.

The Air Force said it selected these candidate installations out of the pool of more than 200 USAF sites using the “deliberate, repeatable, standardized, and transparent” process that it outlined in September.

(Eglin had already been identified as home to the initial F-35 joint training schoolhouse, and the Air Force has been engaged in the process of standing up the schoolhouse there.)

Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) greeted the news of Hill being on the list. “Today is a great day for Utah,” he said in a joint release from the Utah Congressional delegation. He added, “To be one of the first three bases to receive this state-of-the-art aircraft is an incredible honor.”

There was also disappointment in some circles, particularly in Alaska, since Eielson Air Force Base had been thought to be a shoo-in on the short list.

"Given Alaska's important geographic and strategic advantages for the overall defense of our country, I am disappointed to learn that none of Alaska's Air Force bases were chosen as one of the preferred locations,” wrote Sen. Mark Begich (D-Alaska), in a release.

Next up for the F-35 basing process is completion of environmental impact assessments of the candidate locations. USAF then expects to issue its preferred basing locations by the middle of next year and follow with its record of decisions on the final basing choices in early 2011.

As of today, USAF’s official program of record is to acquire 1,763 F-35s, although that number may come down. But those bases not on this short list still have another shot to host aircraft at a later time.

Air Force release

For Congressional reaction, read:

Sen. George LeMieux (R-Fla.) release

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) release

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) release

Idaho Congressional delegation release