Eielson Air Force Base Set to Receive 54 F-35s in 2020

An F-35A maneuvering into position to refuel from a KC-135 Stratotanker. Image-MSgt John Nimmo Sr
An F-35A maneuvering into position to refuel from a KC-135 Stratotanker. Image-MSgt John Nimmo Sr

Over 2,300 new construction jobs will be opening up in Interior Alaska as preparations begin to base two squadrons of F-35 at Eielson Air Force Base. Construction is set to begin in 2017, with the arrival of F-35s to begin in 2020. 

The decision to bring 54 new aircraft to Eielson Air Force base marks the first of the new fighters to the Pacific Theatre. The two new squadrons will join the F-16 Aggressor Squadron and the 168th Air Refueling Wing already in place at the base. The placing of the squadrons are expected to generate $453.4 million in economic output for the region.

The news was applauded by Alaska’s Governor Walker. “As the entire world turns its attention to the Arctic, I am grateful the U.S. Air Force has once again confirmed Alaska’s strategic significance and critical location on the globe,” said Governor Walker.  “We recognize Alaska’s important role in our nation’s armed forces, and stand ready for the U.S. military to take full advantage of the opportunities our state can offer.”

During a call with U.S. Air Force Under Secretary Lisa Disbrow this morning, Governor Walker, members of the Tiger Team, Senator Lisa Murkowski, Senator Dan Sullivan, Congressman Don Young, Senator Click Bishop, Fairbanks North Star Borough Mayor Karl Kassel, City of Fairbanks Mayor John Eberhart, and former FNSB Mayor Luke Hopkins were informed that the Secretary of the Air Force had signed a record of decision for the environmental impact statement that had studied the addition of F-35’s stationed at Eielson. Signing a record of decision is the last step in the National Environmental Policy Act process and stood as the final hurdle to be completed before the Air Force could station the aircraft at Eielson.[xyz-ihs snippet=”adsense-body-ad”]

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“The road to today’s announcement began in 2005 when it was determined that Eielson Air Force Base would be shut down. Alaskans pulled together and fought hard to stop that from happening, ultimately making today’s news a reality. While there are many who deserve recognition, I especially want to thank Senator Lisa Murkowski, Mayor Luke Hopkins, and Jim Dodson for their tireless efforts to keep Eielson open and build the base into what it is today. I also want to thank the men and women of the United States Air Force for protecting our nation and remaining committed to Alaska,” Governor Walker said. “With a $4 billion deficit and low capital budgets, stationing the F-35’s at Eielson will bring new construction and a much needed boost to our state’s economy. My administration will continue to work with our congressional delegation and the U.S. Air Force to maintain a strong military presence in the Interior and throughout Alaska.”

“Today’s Record of Decision is great news, reinforcing Alaska’s strategic military location and proving how crucial Eielson is to our national security. This is also good for the airmen who will now have the opportunity to work and train in the best military community in the nation,” said Senator Murkowski. “Today signals a remarkable reversal of fortune for Eielson Air Force Base, because it was not too long ago that we were told that capabilities at Eielson would be significantly downsized. As a member of both the Defense Appropriations and Military Construction Appropriations Subcommittees, I will now work to fund the planes, the people, and the military construction to make this a reality. It has now been made abundantly clear that America truly needs Eielson Air Force Base.”

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“This announcement today is win-win-win for Alaska, the Air Force, and our nation,” said Senator Sullivan.  “I couldn’t be happier for Fairbanks, North Pole, the Interior, and the rest of Alaska whose patriotic warmth and dedication towards our military and their families clearly made this an easy decision for the Air Force. I also appreciate that the Air Force was responsive to the language that the Alaska Congressional Delegation included in last year’s defense authorization to fully weigh Alaska’s strategic location and our world-class training opportunities in the Joint Pacific Alaska Range Complex. When Eielson’s F-35As are combined with the Air Force’s existing F-22s, C-17s, F-16s, E-3s, and the Alaska Air Guard’s C-130s, KC-135s and combat rescue squadrons, Alaska has clearly become a critical hub of combat air power for our nation. And with rising threats in the Arctic, on the Korea Peninsula, and in the South China Sea, I think Alaskans will agree, these elite aircraft cannot arrive soon enough.”

 “Today’s Record of Decision confirms a longstanding belief that Alaska’s strategic location and unique military value are far too important to be overlooked. This decision, the latest in a series of events, demonstrates that the Department of Defense has truly recognized Alaska for the vital role we play in supporting the military’s mission,” said Congressman Young. “From the announcement to delay cuts to JBER’s 4-25, basing the Gray Eagle UAV’s and Apache Helicopters at Fort Wainwright, keeping the F-16s at Eielson and now today’s announcement, it’s clear DOD understands that Alaska’s strategic value – its vast training areas, proximity to the Asia-Pacific, and our commitment to serving our military – is unmatched anywhere else in the world. From the beginning, my case for bringing the F-35 to Alaska has focused on fulfilling the mission. While I’m proud to have played a role in this process, having secured language in each of the last two National Defense Authorization Acts that emphasized Alaska’s immense military value and the benefits Eielson offers the Air Force, I’ve always said that Alaska’s contributions to our military sell themselves.”

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The move is expected to bring 2,700 new residents to the interior and bring in nearly $600 million in up-front construction.