The U.S. Air Force has selected Eielson Air Force Base in Alaska to house the service branch’s Lockheed Martin-built operational overseas F-35A Lightning II aircraft.
The move would allow the Air Force to access 65,000 square miles of available airspace for training on the fifth-generation fighter jets, the Air Force said Monday.
“Basing the F-35s at Eielson AFB 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 areas in Alaska,” said Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James.
“The decision to base two F-35 squadrons at Eielson AFB, Alaska, combined with the existing F-22 Raptors at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, will double our fifth-generation fighter aircraft presence in the Pacific theater,” added Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh.
He also noted that the integration of the fifth-generation force with U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine Corps and allied F-35 forces would potentially provide survivability, lethality and situational awareness in contested environments.
The Air Force identified Eielson AFB following a three-year review process, including an environmental impact assessment and other operational considerations.
Delivery of an estimated two squadrons of the F-35As is expected to begin by 2020 and construction for its operations and maintenance facilities will begin in 2017, the service branch said.