The basing of 54 F-35 fighter jets at the Eielson Air Force Base will usher in a new era at the Interior Alaska installation. Base commander Colonel Ben Bishop talked about Eielson’s new mission during an update to the Fairbanks Chamber of Commerce this week.
”We are actually adding a combat mission with two combat F-35 squadrons, so we will deploy and project air power,” Bishop said.
Eielson was spared from closure in 2005, and instead re-aligned with a narrow scope of operations.
”We’ve had the training at Eielson Air Force Base with the 354th Fighter wing, in conjunction with the 168th wing of the Air National Guard,” Bishop said. “But what’s different is we’re bringing F-35s, which actually have that combat projection.”
Colonel Bishop says Eielson will continue to host regular Red Flag exercises, bringing together U.S. and ally air forces to train in the Joint Pacific Alaska Range Complex against mock enemies.
”Adversary support squadron and adversary aggressor squadrons at Eielson Air Force Base. And then we have two squadrons of F-22s down the road at the Anchorage Air Force base,” Bishop said. “That ability to have that environment in that range complex with those threats provides an opportunity to provide for a fifth generation center of excellence. So I really see tactics and our ability to project combat power is really gonna grow up in the skies of Alaska.”
Bishop says he envisions Alaska becoming a mecca for F-35 training. The jets will be based at Eielson, with the first round scheduled to arrive in spring 2020. A half-billion dollars in new construction to accommodate 3,500 active duty and civilian support staff associated with the F-35 basing, is underway at Eielson.