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August 26, 2009—The Air Force has expanded the potential beddown locations for the F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter joint/international schoolhouse operation from Eglin AFB, Fla., proper to area airfields within the broader Eglin reservation, so officials revealed during the public scoping meetings that began Aug. 24.

In addition to Eglin main, presented as Alternative 1 in the briefing slides describing the service's draft supplemental environmental impact statement, are Duke Field (Alternative 2) and Choctaw Field (Alternative 3). Each alternative has a bevy of subalternatives and options range from constructing new runways, adding parallel runways, and moving runways, to using a combination of Eglin, Duke, and Choctaw capabilities.

Using Choctaw, which the service earlier had rejected because of insufficient runways and competition with existing Navy training, would entail an hour commute for JSF trainees, reports the Northwest Florida Daily News, since the schoolhouse itself is being constructed at Eglin.

According to USAF's briefing slides, if the service chose either Duke or Choctaw, those fields would get new hangars in addition to new runways—a process likely to take up to eight years under the normal military construction process.

The briefing slides noted that "Congressional insertion funds could shorten the construction process."

In the interim, USAF said, JSF flight operations "most likely" would occur at Eglin main.

According to the Daily News, Choctaw residents who attended the scoping meeting expressed support for basing the flying training in their community. Air Force officials are headed to Valparaiso, whose officials still have a lawsuit pending against the Air Force, Thursday evening for the last of the four planned scoping meetings on the draft SEIS.

The public has until Sept. 17 to provide comments for inclusion in the draft SEIS. The Air Force expects to release the draft SEIS for public comment in spring 2010, release the final SEIS in August 2010, and issue its record of decision in September 2010. That decision will focus primarily on beddown of an initial 59 aircraft for any of the three alternatives, as a means to fill the minimum requirement set by BRAC 2005.

The SEIS also will consider the addition of 48 more fighters, but, the Daily News reports that Col. Bruce McClintock, commander of the 96th Air Base Wing at Eglin, said the Air Force wants to take a new "enterprise-wide look" at future disposition of F-35 squadrons—likely not before 2011.

Air Force Public Scoping Meeting Briefing Slides