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The Department of the Air Force (DAF) and the National Guard Bureau (NGB) are proposing to replace legacy aircraft (F-15C/D) with new generation aircraft (F-15EX or F-35A) at select fighter wings. The NGB proposes to replace one squadron of F-15C/D aircraft with one squadron of F-15EX aircraft at two of the three fighter wings listed below, and one squadron of F-35A aircraft at either the 104th Fighter Wing or the 159th Fighter Wing. No fighter wing location would receive both aircraft. The legacy F-15C/D aircraft would be retired from the inventory due to their age and resulting maintenance costs.

The Proposed Action also includes personnel needed to operate and maintain the F-15EX and F-35A, and construction of new facilities and/or modification of existing facilities to support the beddowns. Visit the Proposed Action page for more information.

The purpose of the Proposed Action is to maintain combat capability and mission readiness for the Air National Guard’s 104th Fighter Wing in Westfield, Massachusetts; 144th Fighter Wing in Fresno, California; and 159th Fighter Wing in New Orleans, Louisiana. Beddown and operation of the F-15EX and F-35A to replace the aging F 15C/D fleet at these fighter wings would enable this goal. These beddown actions and associated training would ensure availability of combat-ready pilots in the most advanced fighter aircraft in the world.  

The Proposed Action is needed because the F-15C/D aircraft are reaching the end of their service life. It is not economically feasible to retain the F-15C/D aircraft, and the DAF has already begun to retire aircraft that are reaching the end of their service life.

The fighter wings are:

  • 104th Fighter Wing at Westfield-Barnes Regional Airport, Westfield, Massachusetts (F-15EX or F-35A)
  • 144th Fighter Wing at Fresno Yosemite International Airport, Fresno, California (F-15EX only)
  • 159th Fighter Wing at Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base, New Orleans, Belle Chasse, Louisiana (F-15EX or F-35A)

During the scoping process, Naval Air Station Lemoore was considered as a potential for relocation of the 144th Fighter Wing from Fresno to Lemoore. NAS Lemoore (and relocation of the 144th Fighter Wing) is no longer being considered.

Each of the two F-15EX beddowns would include one squadron of up to 21 aircraft with three back-ups. The F-35A beddown would include one squadron of up to 21 aircraft and two back-ups. These aircraft are being acquired in support of the Air National Guard mission and would replace the F-15C/D aircraft currently at the selected fighter wings.

F-35A aircraft would be expected to begin arriving to the selected fighter wings in 2026; F-15EX aircraft would begin arriving in 2027-28.

The Air National Guard would use the same special use airspace that it currently uses for the F-15C/D aircraft.

Yes, though each location would use the existing infrastructure and facilities to the extent reasonable.

The Department of the Air Force (DAF) and the National Guard Bureau are committed to a deliberate, repeatable, defendable, and transparent process. The DAF identifies needs, develops criteria required to meet those needs, and conducts an enterprise-wide look to determine candidate locations which meet the criteria. The enterprise consists of more than 200 DAF and Air National Guard sites for training and operational beddowns in the United States, Asia, and Europe.

The Department of Defense uses several metrics to evaluate noise effects. The Day-Night Average Sound Level (DNL) noise metric is primarily used for noise generated at the airfield. Additionally, the Community Noise Equivalent Level (CNEL) is used in the state of California. These metrics are used by all Federal agencies for predicting potential noise effects on humans. DNL represents the average of all noise events that occur over a 24-hour period and includes a weighting for flights occurring between the hours of 10 p.m. and 7 a.m. CNEL adds an additional weighting in the evening timeframe between 7:00 p.m. and 10:00 p.m. Other metrics are used to determine maximum, instantaneous, and supersonic noise levels. These all have been used in the Draft EIS.

A noise analysis was conducted to determine any change at each of the three installations that would result from beddown of either aircraft. The Draft EIS has evaluated and presented the change in noise levels at the airfield and in the training airspace.

The F-15C/Ds would be retired from service due to the age of the aircraft.

The Department of the Air Force considered the following criteria:

  • Air National Guard locations currently flying F-15C/D aircraft, because they are at the end of their service life and are due for retirement
  • Locations with a formal training unit mission were excluded from consideration at this time.
  • The installation had to be located in the contiguous United States.

The result was these three fighter wings.

The National Guard Bureau (NGB) and Department of the Air Force (DAF) used the “program of record” flying hours and the sortie duration for each location to calculate the number of operations. The program of record represents the annual limit of flying hours for each aircraft. The sortie duration is specific to each location and influenced by the distance to training areas. Though the units may never fly that many operations, the EIS has covered to maximum possible operations that could be flown by any of these fighter wings.

Afterburner use for takeoff is dependent on a number of factors and these factors are different for both of these aircraft; therefore, the analysis in the EIS is based on the best estimate of expected use of afterburner for each aircraft. The F-15EX has a similar thrust-to-weight ratio as the current F-15C/D aircraft and therefore pilots would employ afterburner a similar percentage of the time as they do with the F-15C/D aircraft. However, the F-35A has a higher thrust-to-weight ratio for most training configurations, and so the use of afterburner is expected to be lower.  

Impacts to Air Quality would not exceed General Conformity thresholds for any National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) criteria pollutants for the 104th Fighter Wing and the 159th Fighter Wing and would be within de minimis thresholds for all criteria pollutants at the 144th Fighter Wing. Impacts to air quality would not be significant.

This alternative was determined not reasonable, as this installation did not have the necessary infrastructure to support a squadron of F-35A aircraft, could not construct the necessary infrastructure in a timeframe to meet the purpose of the action, and would incur extraordinary cost.  Therefore, considering the purpose and need, environmental factors, and cost, Secretary of the Air Force (SAF) determined that this alternative could not be carried forward for full analysis.

Naval Air Station (NAS) Lemoore was considered as a potential alternative location for the 144th Fighter Wing should they be selected for the F-35A due to the fact that Department of the Navy F-35C aircraft are based at NAS Lemoore, possibly providing some synergy with Air National Guard F-35A operations. This alternative was later determined to not be reasonable because it could not meet the beddown schedule, in addition it was considered to be extraordinarily costly.

On April 18, 2023, the Department of the Air Force announced the preferred fighter wings to receive two of its newest fighters. The 104th Fighter Wing (104 FW) at Westfield-Barnes Regional Airport in Westfield, Massachusetts, was named as the preferred fighter wing to receive the F-35A Lightning II, which would replace their F-15C aircraft. The preferred alternative for the 159th Fighter Wing (159 FW) at Naval Air Station (NAS) Joint Reserve Base (JRB) New Orleans and the 144th Fighter Wing (144 FW) at Fresno Yosemite International Airport, Fresno, California, is to replace their F-15C/D aircraft with F-15EX Eagle IIs. In the preferred alternatives, the new squadrons would consist of 18 F-35As at the 104 FW installation and 18 F-15EXs each at both the 144 FW and 159 FW installations. In other alternatives being analyzed, the squadrons would consist of up to 21 primary aircraft at each location.

The announcement of preferred alternatives to host the next F-35As and the F-15EXs came after conducting site surveys at each fighter wing, assessing the fighter wing’s ability to facilitate the mission and infrastructure capacity, while accounting for community support, environmental factors, schedule, and cost. Before a final decision is made, the Department of the Air Force will continue conducting environmental impact analyses.

The Record of Decision is expected in late 2024.