The Air Force has selected Eielson AFB, Alaska, as the preferred alternative to host the first F-35A squadrons in the Pacific area of responsibility, the service announced Aug. 7. The airbase, located in Fairbanks, was selected due to its ability to support the mission, economic factors, and environmental considerations, officials said in a release. “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 airspace in Alaska,” Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James said. “This, combined with the largest airspace in the Air Force, ensures realistic combat training for the (Department of Defense).” When Eielson was announced as a possible basing alternative for the F-35As, Air Force officials noted that it was easily accessible by Japanese Air Self Defense Forces and other Pacific allies. The F-35A basing decision will become final upon successful completion of the required environmental impact assessment. The Air Force expects the first of a total of 48 F-35As to begin arriving at Eielson in 2019. The Air Force still must decide where to base the 18th Aggressor Squadron’s F-16, currently at Eielson, states the release.
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.