TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - More F-16s could be in Tucson's skies, and that could mean more money in the local economy.
Tucson's Air National Guard base at TIA is a candidate for a bigger pilot training effort by the Air Force, and Davis-Monthan could get a bigger training role in the future.
The foreign flags flying at the 162nd Wing at Tucson International are a tribute to the 162nd’s main mission of training foreign pilots on the F-16. Now as the Air Force is looking for places to train more US pilots, that could bring more planes and people here.
F-16s roar out of Tucson International regularly as the Arizona Air National Guard unit trains pilots for other countries. Over sixty year the unit has trained pilots for 28 countries.
Now the US Air Force is short of pilots and looking to boost training in a hurry.
That's why the 162nd is on the short list for a temporary training sites. The Air Force wants two temporary sites. The 162nd is one of only four candidates.
Even without more planes and people, the Air Force estimates the 162nd adds about $250 million to the local economy.
The estimate for Davis-Monthan is $1.5 billion, but there are fears that figure will fall and fall hard if the Air Force retires the A-10 without giving D-M other active missions.
Expanded training for the F-16 could be one of those missions but D-M is competing with 33 other bases large enough to accommodate more fighters.
Closeness to the Goldwater training range is an asset but the Air Force will consider environmental factors too and some Tucsonans say they will not welcome more planes like the F-16 which are noisier than the A-10 which is relatively quiet for a warplane.
The Air Force may decide on temporary training sites by the end of the year. About 45 planes would be split between two sites