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D-M could host F-35 reserve squadron, Air Force announces

Tucson's Davis-Monthan Air Force Base is among four bases being considered as possible hosts for an Air Force Reserve squadron of F-35 fighter jets within the next seven years, officials said Tuesday. The Air Force has repeatedly tried to phase out the base's mainstay, the A-10 close air support jet.

Along with D-M, bases being considered are Homestead Air Reserve Base in Florida; Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base Fort Worth, Texas; and Whiteman Air Force base in Missouri.

In 2012, the Tucson base was passed over as Luke Air Force Base in Glendale was picked as an F-35 training center.

What the Air Force called the "preferred and reasonable alternatives" from among the candidate bases are expected to be picked later this year. The first of the Reserve's F-35A Lightning II planes are slated to be stationed at the initial location in the summer of 2023, officials said in a news release.

The Air Force will also evaluate potential bases for two Air National Guard squadrons of the F-35, which are slated to receive their first aircraft in the summer of 2022, officials said.

Including D-M on the list of candidate bases is "a testament to our hardworking airmen training at one of the premier combat aviation bases in the country," said U.S. Sen. John McCain.

"I'm confident that as the Air Force continues to finalize its site-selection process, Davis-Monthan will stand out as the best home for this vital aircraft, aided by its combination of ideal climate, community support, and access to the invaluable Goldwater Range," said McCain, the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

"D-M has been a part of the Pima County community for more than 90 years and is critical to the region’s economy," said Sharon Bronson, chair of the Pima County Board of Supervisors.

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"Pima County will continue to support D-M and any new mission or new aircraft that makes the airbase its home," she said in a Wednesday afternoon press release.

Some neighborhood activists have questioned stationing the F-35 in Tucson, citing the increase in noise pollution from the jets, which are significantly louder than the A-10 planes that are now stationed at Davis-Monthan, and the F-16s that train from Tucson International Airport.

A pair of F-35s trained at D-M in March.

The F-35A Lightning II is a conventional takeoff and landing version of the plane for Air Force use. Short takeoff variants are intended for the Marine Corps and British forces as a replacement for the Harrier jet. The aircraft will also be used by the Navy.

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Lockheed Martin

A pilot takes the F-35 Lightning II joint strike fighter up for its first night flight near Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., in 2012.