August 7, 2014 (by Ann Stefanek) - Air Force officials announced that Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska, was selected as the preferred alternative to host the first F-35A Lightning II squadrons in the Pacific area of responsibility.
Eielson was selected due to its ability to support the mission, economic factors and environmental considerations.
"Basing the F-35s at Eielson will allow the Air Force the capability of using the Joint Pacific Alaska Range Complex 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 DOD
Proximity to the range complex 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 Air Force uses a strategic basing process to make basing decisions. Each decision takes an enterprise-wide look as it evaluates potential basing locations. This deliberate and repeatable process uses criteria-based analysis and military judgment.
"Now that we have identified Eielson AFB
as the preferred alternative for the Pacific Air Force's F-35s, we will use our strategic basing process to determine the best location for the 18th Aggressor Squadron's F-16s. Eielson will be included in the bases considered," said Timothy A. Bridges, deputy assistant secretary of the Air Force for Installations.
The basing decision for the F-35A will become final upon successful completion of the environmental impact analysis process. The Air Force expects the first F-35As to arrive at the selected location in 2019. The chosen base is projected to receive a total of 48 F-35As.
"The F-35 will be based at locations capable of meeting combatant commander requirements, while being accessible to respond to all contingencies outlined in our national security strategy," said Air Force Chief of Staff General Mark A. Welsh III. "In addition to complementing the F-22's world class air superiority capabilities, the F-35A is designed to penetrate the most advanced air defenses and deliver a wide range of precision munitions."
The F-35A delivers Global Precision Attack capabilities essential to our national security strategy and is vital to defeating 21st century threats. The F-35A, a modern fifth-generation aircraft, also brings the added benefit of increased allied interoperability and cost-sharing between the Air Force and partner nations.