Just heard this news article read on the radio this morning and I thought I was hearing the host wrong. So when I got home just now I googled it and nope I didn’t hear him wrong. The country of Singapore is building a air force base in Twin Falls Idaho.

“Why are we letting planes of a dictatorship pollute our airspace, startle and stress out bighorn sheep and sage grouse, mar our clean desert skies with contrails and pollutants?” Katie Fite, a representative of Western Watersheds Project, wrote in a 2006 letter in the environmental impact statement.

So read it for yourself:

Singapore military aiming for Idaho air space

The Republic of Singapore’s newest air force base will be 80 miles west of Twin Falls.

In October, the Mountain Home Air Force Base will welcome the initial elements of a 10-jet Singaporean training squadron under terms of a 5- to 20-year deal that will bring hundreds of Singaporean military personnel and their families to southern Idaho.

“It’s more than a possibility,” said Mayor Tom Rist, responding to a base spokesman who cautioned against assuming the deal will happen. “It’s coming.”

The Singaporean military currently has two detachments at other U.S. air bases, but this will be its first long-term residency in North America, according to the Ministry of Defense Singapore’s Web site.

The environmental impact of the 10 – and perhaps as many as 20 – Singaporean F-15SG fighters whizzing through the skies should be relatively small, according to an environ-mental impact statement published last year.

However, it could mean a 25 percent annual increase in sorties from the base and jet noise over a 15 percent larger area.

Mountain Home aircraft routinely use bombing ranges that border on Twin Falls County, and often practice touch-and-go landings at Joslin Field, Magic Valley Regional Airport.

The impact of the new international training base includes a $60 million construction plan and building spree that will add 112,567 square-feet of new on-base facilities to handle everything from aircraft engine repair to munitions storage and office space.

The move will add 307 foreign military personnel and American contractors – including 179 RSAF active-duty personnel and about 128 support workers. They would boost the base population by about 25 percent if no personnel currently stationed there are moved elsewhere. The Air Force anticipates moving an unspecified number of personnel and planes to other bases in the near term, however.

The first RSAF personnel, responsible for general set-up operations, will arrive in October. The first F-15SG aircraft is expected in April 2009.

The United States has routinely trained military forces from allied countries since World War II. Singapore, a former British colony not much larger than Twin Falls County, has several training bases in Australia as well as two in others in the U.S. because it lacks room to make training flights, according to the RSAF Web site.

Mountain Home in recent years has had shorter-term training missions involving Israeli, German, British and Australian personnel who have used the base’s top-flight electronic training range, said Mountain Home’s economic development director, Ron Swearingen.

But never before has the base been used for housing and training foreign troops on a “semi-permanent-ongoing basis,” Swearingen said.

Swearingen said the move will benefit his town of 14,000, adding cultural and social diversity. He said he’s now busy coordinating how the city will accommodate it.

It’s unclear how Mountain Home schools will cope with a large influx of children who may speak English but who could be limited to Malay or Chinese dialects, Rist said.(I’m sure we’ll do them like the illegals coming here…accommodate them with translators…it would be so terrible for them to have to learn English you know.)

Not everyone considers the RSAF a plus.

“Why are we letting planes of a dictatorship pollute our airspace, startle and stress out bighorn sheep and sage grouse, mar our clean desert skies with contrails and pollutants?” Katie Fite, a representative of Western Watersheds Project, wrote in a 2006 letter in the environmental impact statement.

Fite’s environmental group generally opposes expansion of the base or bombing ranges.

“We are alarmed that the citizens of Idaho, Oregon and Nevada get new and added air and visual pollution, range fires from flares, litter from chaff, noise, sonic booms, testing and use of devices of unknown kinds … with unknown effects on human health and wellbeing – to benefit the Singapore Air Force!”

Mountain Home was selected over Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, N.C., which was also studied by the Air Force.

“A combination of factors, including the base’s flying training range, F-15E squadron and existing infrastructure, helped determine Mountain Home’s selection to host the unit,” said 1st Lt. Matthew Stines, a Mountain Home deputy chief of public affairs.

According to the environmental study, the Singaporean personnel will be under American operational control while they train at Mountain Home. Their commander will be an American, said Bill Richey, a Mountain Home-based specialist in military affairs.

The planes will bear a Singapore flag and RSAF insignia, but the markings likely won’t be visible from the ground on most flights, reducing the chances of alarming Idahoans, said an air combat spokeswoman in Langley, Va.

A Singapore military defense attache based in Washington, D.C. did not return a phone call Tuesday evening.

The RSAF recently bought 12 F-15SG aircraft – an advanced version of the F-15E Strike Eagle currently flown from Mountain Home, Stines said. Defense Industry Daily reported that Boeing anticipates delivering the planes in stages beginning this year. Singapore retains the option for eight more planes, Stines wrote.

“Amounts were not disclosed, but previous reports have placed the contract value at around $1 billion exclusive of options,” the daily reported. “An associated weapons and services request could be worth another $741 million if all options are exercised.”

Richey said the RSAF will pay for its training under a contract that spans 20 years.

“That’s pretty permanent,” he said. “It’s an outstanding strategic partnership. For the United States it’s a real positive, plus for the overall strategy of the whole world. For Idaho, it’s an economic boon.”

Just how big of a boon is unclear. Mountain Home contributed more than $455 million to the local economy in fiscal year 2007, base officials say.

“With the projected numbers of RSAF and support personnel at less than 200, we expect there will be some increase in Mountain Home AFB’s contribution to the local economy considering such factors as additional payrolls and initial construction contracts,” Stines wrote.

Richey said Singapore’s location in the Malaysian straights makes it a primary channel of commerce. The country has also shown willingness to strategically partner with the U.S., including a port built to accept American aircraft carriers

Read the entire article @ Times News

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