|Rooftops threaten Luke bid for F-35s
||[Oct. 18th, 2008|08:11 pm]
By David Madrid - Arizona Republic via Gannett News Service|
Posted : Wednesday Oct 15, 2008 11:49:24 EDT
Luke Air Force Base west of Phoenix, Ariz., is competing with a base in Idaho to land a new generation of supersonic fighter aircraft, and state officials worry that urban sprawl could ruin its chances and drain billions of dollars from the economy.
The Air Force needs a large base with plenty of airspace over unpopulated areas to train pilots to fly the new F-35 Lightning II. Luke, on the western fringes of the Valley, has that and great flying weather to boot. But if new housing keeps creeping closer to the base, moving within noise boundaries, the Air Force fears future training activities could be curtailed by the residential encroachment.
That concern is particularly acute because the F-35 is louder than the aging F-16 Fighting Falcon used for training at Luke and more likely to disturb people living under flight paths.
Although West Valley cities have restricted nearby development to protect Luke, Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard is in a legal showdown with Maricopa County to stop encroachment in unincorporated areas near the base and its training area. Unless the county is stopped, he says, new rooftops could ground Luke’s hopes for the lucrative F-35 mission and cast a cloud over the base’s future as the F-16 is phased out.
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