June 29, 2020 (by SrA Kahdija Slaughter) - The F-35A Lightning II fleet has officially doubled at Eielson with the arrival of three new F-35As on June 25, 2020.
A DCMA pilot taxis USAF F-35A #18-5352 after landing at Eielson AFB on June 25th, 2020. This was the fourth of 54 F-35As scheduled to arrive at Eielson by the end of 2021. [USAF photo by SrA. Kahdija Slaughter]
The first two F-35As arrived in April and the third in May.
“I saw the first two jets land in April and it felt like a once in a lifetime experience that I was honored and excited to be part of,” said Airman 1st Class Jeremiah Jordheim, a 356th Aircraft Maintenance Unit assistant dedicated crew chief. “Seeing the 356th Fighter Squadron stand up is a great opportunity and it’s always a thrill to see that Alaska tail come in.”
The most recent jets were flown to Eielson by pilots assigned to the Defense Contract Management Agency. DCMA is a Department of Defense organization primarily in charge of delivering new F-35 aircraft to customers across the globe.
“Using DCMA pilots to deliver these three jets freed up three of our personnel to work on F-35 squadron stand up and training preparation here at Eielson without having to worry about traveling to the lower 48 and the risks for COVID exposure,” said Lt. Col. James Christensen, the 356th Fighter Squadron commander.
A mix of local-assigned Eielson pilots and DCMA pilots will continue to deliver the remaining 48 F-35As scheduled to arrive by December 2021, enabling Eielson’s F-35A pilots to continue to train uninterrupted throughout the Joint Pacific Alaska Range Complex alongside 18th Aggressor Squadron F-16 Fighting Falcons and F-22 Raptors assigned to the 3rd Wing at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson.
“The JPARC provides unique opportunities for advanced training and tactics, integrating fifth-generation fighters and surface to air missile threats combined with the Air Force’s best adversary replication,” Christensen noted. “Alaska is poised to become a premier training range for the Pacific Air Forces, sister DOD
services and international partners across the theater.”
Eielson’s reception of its F-35A fleet is currently on schedule and once complete will make Alaska the U.S. state with the highest concentration of combat-coded, fifth-generation fighter aircraft.