This comes as no big surprise, FighterSweep Fans, but Eielson Air Force Base outside of Fairbanks, Alaska, has been selected to receive the first OCONUS F-35A Lightning II squadron. The base was chosen after Air Force senior leadership complete a lengthy analysis of the special considerations Eielson brings (Read: harsh climactic conditions), overall installation suitability, availability of good airspace (which it has), and cost of building new infrastructure for bed-down.
Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska, was selected as the new home for the Air Force’s first operational overseas F-35A Lightning IIs.
“Alaska combines a strategically important location with a world-class training environment. Basing the F-35s at Eielson AFB will allow the Air Force the capability of using the Joint Pacific Alaska Range Complex (JPARC) for large force exercises using a multitude of ranges and maneuver areas in Alaska,” said Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James. “This, combined with the largest airspace in the Air Force, ensures realistic combat training for the (Defense Department).”
Proximity to the JPARC will enable the Air Force to take advantage of approximately 65,000 square miles of available airspace for realistic, world-class training in the Air Force’s most advanced fifth-generation fighter.
The decision culminates a three-year process that included an extensive environmental impact statement that examined impacts on such factors as air quality, noise, land use and socioeconomics.
“The decision to base two F-35 squadrons at Eielson AFB, Alaska, combined with the existing F-22 Raptors at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, will double our fifth-generation fighter aircraft presence in the Pacific theater,” said Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Welsh III. “Integrating that fifth-generation force with Navy, Marine, and allied F-35 forces will provide joint and coalition warfighters unprecedented survivability, lethality and battlespace awareness in contested environments. It’s an exciting time for Pacific airpower.”
The base is projected to receive two squadrons of F-35As, which will join the wing’s F-16 Fighting Falcon aggressor squadron currently assigned to Eielson AFB.