The Air Force has changed course and decided to keep the 18th Aggressor Squadron at Eielson AFB, Alaska, near Fairbanks, and not alter the size of the remaining base operating support functions, announced service officials on Wednesday. “Given what we’ve learned about the strategic rebalance to the Pacific in the last year, the reaffirmation of the importance of Air Force presence in Alaska, and the decrease in expected savings, the Air Force has elected to retain the 18th AGRS at Eielson while we finalize our long-range plans for this region,” said Acting Air Force Secretary Eric Fanning in the Oct. 2 release. Those long-range plans may include F-35s for Eielson, as the base is a candidate location to host them. Air Force officials had originally estimated that the move of Eielson’s F-16 aggressor aircraft—which serve as adversary forces in training exercises like Red Flag—to Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, near Anchorage, coupled with curbing other activity at Eielson, would save some $240 million. Alaska’s congressional delegation fought the proposal. Accordingly, these lawmakers greeted Wednesday’s decision. “I thank the Air Force for seeing the merit of our argument,” said Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R) in a joint statement with Sen. Mark Begich (D) and Rep. Don Young (R).
The U.S. supports “a stronger and more capable” European defense, Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III said during an Oct. 22 press conference in Brussels—but that defense should not duplicate the functions and capabilities of the NATO alliance.