Military ramps up spending ahead of Eielson fighter jet squadrons

The Army Corps of Engineers last week awarded two more contracts worth more than $55 million last week for construction of facilities to accommodate the two squadrons of F-35As that will coming to Eielson Air Force Base over the next three years.

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Work is under way on new facilities at Eielson Air Force Base that’ll accommodate the 54 F-35As that will be coming to Eielson beginning in 2020, along with the personnel who’ll be flying and maintaining them, and their family members. (U.S. Marine Corps)

The first of the two contracts was worth $37.3 million and went to a joint venture between Anchorage-based Bethel Federal and the Unit Company. Kevin Blanchard, who directs the 354th Fighter Wing’s F-35 Program Integration Office, says the companies will build a facility that’ll be used for corrosion control and maintenance and repair on the jets’ engines.

“To do longer-term maintenance, things that take more than a day, potentially, on the aircraft,” Blanchard said.

The project should be completed by July 2019. Blanchard expects work to begin soon, because the contractor will have a lot of preliminary clearing and grading work to do before construction can begin.

“It’s undeveloped, forested land,” Blanchard said. “So there’s quite a bit of site preparation to do to get this project going.”

The second of the two contracts, worth about $18 million, was awarded June 7 to Silver Mountain Construction of Palmer. It calls for renovation of an existing building and construction of an addition that’ll be used for a unit that’ll maintain two types of aircraft on the base.

“That’ll be a combined F-35/F-16 field training detachment,” Blanchard said.

Blanchard says those were the third and fourth Eielson F-35-related contracts awarded by the Corps of Engineers so far.

“We’ll actually have five more to award for the FY 17 projects, going forward,” Blanchard said.

The projects are intended to accommodate two squadrons, or about 50, of the new-generation stealth fighters that’ll be coming to Eielson in 2020, along with about 1,250 mainly military personnel to operate and maintain them. Fairbanks Economic Development Corporation President and CEO Jim Dodson says the projects will provide opportunities for local companies to subcontract – and local construction workers to get to work.

“I think that you will see almost everybody that wants to go to work, working in Fairbanks, in the construction trade,” Dodson said.

Dodson has estimated military-construction projects at Eielson and Clear Air Force Station will pump about $1.5 billion in to the state’s economy in the coming years.