After Years of Pressure from Begich and Delegation, Air Force Selects Eielson as Likely Home of F-35s
Squadrons will Bring Hundreds of New Jobs to Fairbanks, Boosts Alaska’s Military Presence
August 7, 2014 - After a vigorous and sustained effort to secure the role of Alaska and Eielson Air Force Base (AFB) in the nation’s defense, U.S. Senator Mark Begich welcomed today’s Air Force announcement that Eielson was selected as the preferred candidate in the Pacific Region to station the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, the next generation fighter aircraft for the Air Force.
“Today’s decision shows how far we’ve come since the F-16 fight and demonstrates that Pentagon leadership truly recognizes Eielson’s strategic importance,” said Begich. “The F-35 is the next generation aircraft for the Air Force and this move speaks volumes for Eielson’s future role in national defense. This is a huge win for Fairbanks.”
What the announcement means for Alaska:
The decision means that in 2016, after completing and environmental impact statement (EIS) process, one or two squadrons of F-35s will likely head to Eielson Air Force Base for stationing. The coalition supporting stationing the F-35s at Eielson estimates that two squadrons would generate hundreds of millions in new revenue for the local economy, and could bring hundreds of additional military personnel and dependents.
“This has been a great team effort. I want to thank all members of the Tiger Team, led by Fairbanks North Star Borough Mayor Luke Hopkins, including Jim Dodson, President and CEO of the Fairbanks Economic Development Corporation, the Alaska Delegation, and everyone else who has fought to secure Eielson’s future,” Begich continued. “I also want to thank the Air Force for recognizing it has a great partner in Alaska. I will continue to work with the Air Force to make sure the stationing stays on track. Most of all, I want to thank the community of Fairbanks for their incredible support for the F-35s and for the Alaska military. It made all the difference and helped the delegation drive our point home -- the F-35s belong in Alaska.”
Begich’s Record Pushing to Bring the F-35s to Alaska:
Begich has been candid about his willingness to do everything in his power, whether it is at his former post on the Armed Services Committee or his current role on the Appropriations Committee, to bring maintain and increase Alaska’s military presence -- a position that sometimes put him at odds with military brass. In 2012 Begich placed a hold on Gen. Herbert “Hawk” Carlisle’s fourth star as part of a successful fight to reverse the Air Force’s proposal to ‘warm’ Eielson and move the F-16s to Anchorage. Last year the Air Force finally changed its mind about relocating the F-16s while continuing to consider Eielson as a top candidate to station the F-35 squadrons.
Begich in April pushes for the F35s to be stationed in Alaska during a Senate Appropriations Hearing. (click for video)
Begich in March discussing importance of F-35 in Alaska (click for video)
Begich has also been a strong advocate for stationing the F-35s at Eielson during meetings with Pentagon and Air Force leaders including Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel and Gen. Carlisle. Most recently, Begich met with Secretary Hagel on May 29 to make sure the F-35 decision process remained on track.
In July, Begich signed a petition -- organized by local government, the Fairbanks Economic Development Corporation, the Greater Fairbanks Chamber of Commerce, and the North Pole Economic Development Corporation -- in favor or bringing the F-35s to Eielson.
Click here for b-roll footage of the F-35, courtesy of Lockheed Martin.