The last two F-35′s land at Eielson Air Force Base
FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - The wait is finally over at Eielson Air Force Base as the final two F-35A Lightning II Jets made their landing on the runway on April 15, 2022.
“Today we received the last two of 54 aircraft, straight from the Lockheed Factory at Fort Worth, so it is a really significant day for us in terms of the buildup of Eielson Air Force Base, both in terms of the mission capabilities that it brings, but also the other aspects that it has brought,” said Colonel David “Ajax” Berkland of the 354 Fighter Wing at Eielson Air Force Base.
In April 2016 Eielson Air Force Base was selected as the first Pacific Air Force’s F-35 base. Since that time, the F-35 mission has cost over 550 million dollars to fund.
Expansions of the base included the construction of 36 new buildings, and 54 housing units for the aircraft, among other projects.
Since 2019, there have been an estimated 3500 active-duty airmen and their dependents brought to Eielson.
“We bring not only single airmen up here, we bring families up here. Those families and the teams that support the people that are supporting these aircraft, flying them and fixing them as well as the support of other requirements that come with a complex weapons system like this. Those people are all a part of this community and so we have felt all along as though we are joining an extended family here in this community,” said Berkland.
The first F-35′s touched down on Eielson Air Force Base in April of 2020. Now in April 2022, the final duo completed the two full squadrons of F-35′s with 54 aircraft.
These 54 aircraft including Joint Base Elmendorf Richardson’s 48 F-22′s, make Alaska the only place in the world with over 100 fifth-generation aircraft.
“General Billy Mitchell talked about it in the 1930′s, that whoever holds Alaska, holds the world. So the strategic importance of competing and securing our nation’s interests, which were there then, remains as much now as ever. So to bring the F-35′s up here with the 5th Gen. capability, and to be able to project that airpower from this northern location here in Alaska is a huge enabler for our joint force as well as our allies and teammates throughout the world,” he explained.
Colonel Berkland says the strategic importance of these aircraft in the arctic illustrates the airforce’s capability for readiness, and when it comes to training, you need an area as big as Alaska.
“We are actually sitting inside the greatest airspace in the world to train for 5-th generation tactics against advanced threats, both on the air and on the ground,” he added.
F-35′s have the capability to fly more than 12 hours at a time, meaning they can reach almost anywhere in the northern hemisphere in one mission or “sortie” as they call it in the Air Force.
To date, the F-35′s have flown just shy of 8,000 sorties over the last two years and about 13,000 flying hours of readiness for the aviators.
With Red Flag just around the corner, this continued training will only enhance the Air Force’s capabilities. The sky is the limit with 54 aircraft ready for liftoff.
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