BOISE -- The Mountain Home Air Force Base has been tabbed as the preferred location to host a future training mission for a Royal Saudi Air Force squadron, beating out competitors in Utah, New Mexico and Nevada
It's not final yet, but if the plan gets the final go-ahead from the government, between 150 and 200 Saudi Arabian military personnel would move to Mountain Home along with a dozen new fighter jets.
Base officials say they are excited about the prospect of getting the foreign squadron for a variety of reasons, including building a stronger partnership with a Middle Eastern military force.
Having Saudi Arabia in our country training is nothing new. What's new is that this would be the first time they have a squadron at a particular base, Colonel Pete Lee, 366th Fighter Wing vice commander, said.
Lee says the prospect of Saudi Arabian airmen training at the Mountain Home Air Force Base is a big opportunity for the base and the military.
If we ever have to join forces with them, we'll know how they are, they'll know how we are. We train alike, and we're a better fighting force, Lee said.
In addition, he says it's also a big opportunity for the whole community. With family members, the Air Force anticipates around 350 people might come to the area.
They will come here, and they will need vehicles and clothes and furniture, so there will definite economic impact, Lee said.
Major Crispin Kretzmann, 391st FS pilot, trained pilots in Saudi Arabia for a year. He notes there are some cultural differences between the countries but says working alongside the Saudis, he saw a many similarities in values.
Sure there's differences, but there's a lot of similarities as well. They value some of the same things we do, like family and privacy, Kretzmann said. I know that they'll look forward to being stationed here. There is already a lot of training opportunities for Saudi pilots in the U.S. and every single one of them I talked with absolutely enjoyed their experiences here.
Air Force officials say this relationship would be similar to the current one with airmen from Singapore who are training on the base, working alongside U.S. airmen, and using similar models of fighter jets.
We're using the same training routes, the same training airspace. They're not going to be training any differently than we are currently, Lee said.
This is part of a $60 billion arms package the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is working to buy from the United States. That includes buying more than 80 new fighter jets.
Again, this is not finalized. Air Force officials say Congress must approve the arms deal with Saudi Arabia. Also, citizens will have the opportunity to weigh in on the Mountain Home site. There will be public input meetings, similar to those held when Mountain Home was considered as a potential base for F-35s. Those meetings have not yet been scheduled, but will be sometime next year.
The initial plan would have the Saudis arrive in Idaho at the end of 2013. The initial agreement would last for five years, as it is currently drafted.