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Research Questions

  1. How can the Air Force minimize enterprise operations and support costs associated with composite force training (CFT) events required for F-35A continuation training?
  2. What kind of modeling framework best supports identifying such a basing strategy?

Since 2009, the U.S. Air Force (USAF) has been working toward increasing the strategic nature of domestic basing decisions through the formalized Strategic Basing Process, which is intended to assist in decisionmaking and ensure all Air Force basing actions support mission requirements. Domestic basing decisions can have significant implications for the Air Force in terms of the costs and risks associated with meeting mission requirements. Strategic basing is an important and timely topic given the large number of pending basing decisions for the F-35A, which will soon enter full-rate production and eventually constitute a significant portion of the future USAF fighter force structure. The modeling framework presented in this report is designed to identify basing locations for the F-35A fleet and training range locations that minimize enterprisewide flying costs associated with participation in required composite force training exercises for combat mission–ready pilots. This modeling framework was developed as part of the FY 2015 "Shaping Domestic Basing Postures to Ensure Strategic Agility" project, commissioned by the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Installations, Environment, and Energy and conducted within the PAF Resource Management Program.

Key Findings

The Importance of Training Requirements for F-35A Basing Decisions

  • Researchers developed a modeling framework to identify a basing strategy that minimizes enterprisewide flying costs associated with participation in required CFT events for all F-35A combat mission–ready pilots.

Modeling Framework Overview

  • The modeling framework accepts inputs in candidate F-35A basing locations; F-35A attributes (e.g., fuel consumption characteristics and cost per flying hour); pilot continuation training requirements (specifically Ready Aircrew Program requirements for CFTs); attributes of training exercises (e.g., what portion of CFTs must take place at advanced ranges and how many aircraft can participate in such exercises); candidate CFT locations; and locations of supporting mission design series aircraft wings and other attributes.
  • The outputs of the model include base assignments of the wings, the location of each training event, the number of aircraft each wing sends to each training event from its assigned base, and the total flying hour costs associated with travel to training events. Only the costs associated with participating in regional training exercises were included in this assessment. Other costs, such as flying at local primary training ranges, and other constraints, such as airspace restrictions, would also be important considerations in future basing decisions.


  • The presented modeling framework provides a starting point for asking and beginning to address several questions of potential interest to the Air Force, including on issues to help understand the value of strategic basing, along with implications for range modernization and composite force training.

Research conducted by

The research described in this report was prepared for the United States Air Force and conducted by RAND Project AIR FORCE.

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