Contributed by Mike Anderson
WASHINGTON, DC—Today the Alaska Congressional Delegation praised the news that Eielson Air Force Base was selected as the new home for the U.S. Air Force’s first F-35As in the Pacific Theatre. Construction is scheduled to begin in fiscal year 2017, with the arrival of the F-35s expected in 2020. The Record of Decision was signed this morning by the Air Force, finalizing plans to base the F-35A Joint Strike Fighter at Eielson, bringing 54 new aircraft and 2,765 additional residents to Interior Alaska. The two squadrons of F-35s will join the F-16 Aggressor squadron and the 168th Air Refueling Wing currently assigned to Eielson.
The U.S. Air Force released its final Environmental Impact Study on February 26th regarding the bed-down of the F-35s at Eielson. Construction activity associated with the siting of the F-35A Joint Strike Fighter is expected to create a total of 2,339 new construction jobs and generate $453.4 million in economic output over the next four years.
“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.”
“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.