BOISE, Idaho (AP) -- Officials at the Mountain Home Air Force Base in Idaho have asked the Federal Aviation Administration to expand the base's airspace deeper into Oregon and Nevada.

Col. John Bird, the commander of the 366th Fighter Wing, said the expansion would double the effectiveness of the airspace and the training offered in Idaho, making the base comparable to Nevada's Nellis Air Force Base.

It's not the first time military officials have sought to expand the range, The Idaho Statesman reported. Environmental groups and others scuttled a similar proposal in the 1990s. That prompted the Air Force to retool and scale back that request, and it was approved years later.

Bird said a larger range would allow the F-15 pilots at the base to fly closer to the ground at supersonic speeds for their training, creating more realistic scenarios as they prepare for deployments to places like Iraq and Afghanistan.

An expansion could also make the base more attractive as a future training site for the F-35 or F-22 jets, which are more modern and faster than the F-15 jets currently housed at the base. But some ranchers are concerned that lower-flying jets would harry their cattle.

The Mountain Home range complex covers more than 187 square miles in Idaho, Oregon and Nevada. If approved, the expansion would increase the air space by nearly 30 percent.

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Information from: Idaho Statesman, http://www.idahostatesman.com

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press.

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