Three F-35A Lightning IIs arrived at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska, on June 25, doubling the size of the base’s F-35A fleet.
Eielson is scheduled to receive the remaining 48 F-35As by December of next year for a total of 54 aircraft, giving Alaska the highest concentration of combat-coded, fifth-generation fighter aircraft of any state.
“When you station the F-35 at Eielson and you have the F-22 Raptor down at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, working together in the JPARC [Joint Pacific Alaska Range Complex] with our 18th Aggressor Squadron and ground training assets, you have the perfect training field for the F-35 to develop,” said Col. Benjamin Bishop, the 354th Fighter Wing commander, in an April 21 press release.
Pilots from the Defense Contract Management Agency flew the planes to Eielson. The DCMA is the Department of Defense organization in charge of delivering F-35 aircraft. Using the DCMA allowed the limited number of F-35A pilots to continue training without interruption, and limited risk of exposing Eielson pilots to COVID-19 in other states. However, Eielson pilots will work with DCMA pilots in future fighter deliveries over the next year.
“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 in a June 25 press release.
Eielson’s F-35A pilots will train in the Joint Pacific Alaska Range Complex with the 18th Aggressor Squadron F-16 Fighting Falcons and F-22 Raptors assigned to the 3rd Wing at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson.
“Alaska is poised to become a premier training range for the Pacific Air Forces, sister DOD services, and international partners across the theater,” said Christensen.