DELEGATION CREDITS TIGER TEAM, MAYORS, LOCAL LEADERS
Two F-35A Lightning II fighter jets arrived in their new home in Alaska on Tuesday. Over the next two years, another 52 will join them at Eielson Air Force Base outside of Fairbanks.
“This first aircraft is a milestone,” said Col. Benjamin Bishop, commander of the base’s 354th Fighter Wing, on Tuesday. “Making the first aircraft arrival possible has been a long path, but it’s also just first step in a journey that will continue at Eielson Air Force Base for decades to come.”
Along with the two squadrons, another roughly 1,300 personnel will be based at Eielson by the end of 2021, doubling the number of airmen at Eielson.
And in addition to the F-35 squadrons, Alaska is home to two F-22 squadrons, based at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Anchorage. The four squadrons combined will mean Alaska will have the highest concentration of “fifth-generation” fighters in the country, those jets that were developed in the 21st Century. All of the fifth-generation jets have stealth capabilities, even when armed, resulting in “low probability of intercept radar.”
The jets will train against F-16s posing as enemy aircraft in the massive Joint Pacific Alaska Range Complex.
Eielson has undergone $500 million in infrastructure improvements over the past few years to be able to welcome the two new squadrons.
Congressman Don Young, and Sen. Dan Sullivan and Sen. Lisa Murkowski welcomed the news of the F-35s’ arrival, which all of them had worked to accomplish. In their remarks, however, they gave credit to the community of Fairbanks and the local Tiger Team volunteers, mayors, and other community leaders who worked to turn what was going to be a base closure into a base expansion.
“Today is an incredible day for Alaska! It marks the culmination of years of tireless efforts by the Alaska Delegation, including by the late Senator Ted Stevens,” said Congressman Young.“Years ago, Eielson Air Force base was facing closure. We not only prevented that, but with the delivery of the F-35, Eielson has come back even stronger. These cutting-edge fighters are an important tool for our national defense, and Alaska is a location of great strategic importance. The leaders who helped make this happen – from Fairbanks and North Pole, across Alaska, and in Washington, D.C. – deserve our gratitude for helping to bring the F-35 to Fairbanks.
“I hope that when those in Fairbanks and across our state look up into the sky and see one of these jets, they are filled with great pride knowing that Alaskans are helping to keep our nation safe, and our world secure. The F-35 will bring pilots, maintainers, and their families to Fairbanks, and I want to welcome these new Alaskans to our 49th state; we are happy to have you. I am truly grateful to everyone who helped make today a reality. May God bless Alaska, and may God bless our great nation!” – Congressman Don Young
“Alaska is the most strategic place in the world and now, with these two squadrons of F-35As, our state will soon be home to more than 100 fifth-generation fighters,” said U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan. “America’s adversaries will certainly think twice before engaging our country when faced with this unparalleled force and firepower.
“But this historic day did not come easy. We all remember a time when the future looked bleak for Eielson AFB. Nonetheless, Alaskans did what they do best – circled the wagons and put our grit and determination to work, advocating day and night to ensure the new gold-standard in supersonic fighter aircraft found its home in the Interior.
“Community support won the day, and I congratulate the Fairbanks/North Pole Tiger Team, our local mayors, the community councils, and everyday Alaskans for never giving up on Eielson AFB. I join all Alaskans in celebrating the arrival of the F-35As as we look forward to welcoming – with open arms – the rest of the airframes, the airmen and crews, and their families to Alaska. Aim High!” Sullivan said in a statement.
“This has been a long time effort by the Alaska Congressional Delegation, the Tiger Team, and the military, and I congratulate everyone who played a part in making this a reality,” said Sen. Lisa Murkowski. “The importance these squadrons of F-35s will play in our national defense, while also providing our airmen with incredible, real-world training is unparalleled. With these extraordinary aircraft now calling Eielson Air Force Base home, we further strengthen our nation’s defense capabilities and ensure we are utilizing Alaska’s geo-strategic location. These fifth-generation fighters give us critical advantages over our adversaries and will better safeguard our nation. This is an extraordinary milestone for Alaska and the Arctic Region.”