McCain, McSally applaud Air Force decision to consider Arizona for F-16 training hub

U.S. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) and U.S. Rep. Martha McSally (R-AZ) welcomed news on Tuesday that the Air Force would consider Tucson as a potential hub for new F-16 fighter jets.

The Air Force released a list of 34 bases around the country that could be home to new F-16 training units that are being relocated from Luke Air Force Base in Arizona and Hill Air Force Base in Utah to make room for new F-35 installments.

Davis-Monthan Air Force Base (DM) and the 162nd Wing of the Arizona National Guard, housed at Tucson International Airport, were on the list of possible cites.

“The Air Force’s announcement that it plans to limit consideration of temporary locations for the new F-16 Formal Training Units (FTU) to bases that include Tucson Airport and Luke Air Force Base underscores Arizona’s ideal conditions for training the next generation of American fighter pilots,” McCain, the chairman of the Senate Armed Forces Committee, said. “This news means that 48 F-16s from Hill Air Force Base in Utah will be moved temporarily to Tucson Airport, Luke Air Force Base, or Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico. In addition, up to 72 instructor pilots, 500-600 maintenance personnel, and several dozen F-16 pilot trainees will operate at one or two of these locations for two to three years on a temporary basis starting in fiscal year 2017.”

The final decision on a permanent location is several years away, McCain said, adding that he is confident that Tucson Airport and Luke Air Force Base are well situated to receive additional squadrons for interim and permanent locations.

“I also believe that Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson offers unmatched capabilities to be considered as a permanent location, with its substantial ramp space, good flying operations infrastructure, and close proximity to the Goldwater Range complex,” McCain said. “I look forward to Arizona continuing to play an outsized role in preparing our airmen for increasingly complex missions around the world.”

McSally said that the announcement recognizes southern Arizona’s unparalleled assets for training air-to-ground aircraft, which she has worked to highlight in Congress.

“With thousands of square miles of high and low altitude military airspace, over 300 days of sunshine a year, and close access to the Barry M. Goldwater training ranges, there’s no better place in the country to train pilots for these missions,” McSally said. “During my multiple assignments at DM to fly and later lead a squadron of A-10s, I experienced the value of our military treasures first-hand, and I’ll continue to fight for them as the Air Force considers this decision.”

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