Begich Provides Fairbanks Community Leaders with Update on F-35s
Addresses Concerns, Talks Next Steps about F-16 move and Gray Eagle Program
U.S. Senator Mark Begich today met with Fairbanks business leaders and community members to provide an update on military investments in the Interior and to describe the decision-making timeline for the F-35 fighter jets and Gray Eagle unmanned aircraft program.
“The community worked hard to bring the F-35s to Fairbanks and I know many were relieved to learn Eielson was selected as the preferred location for the F-35’s. Congratulation to the community—this is a big win for Eielson, Fairbanks and the Interior,” said Begich. “There are a few more hoops we’ll need to jump through before the jets come to Alaska and I want to make sure the Fairbanks community, especially those local companies who rely upon a strong military presence for business, have the right expectations and know what the next steps will be.”
Begich opened the discussion by confirming for the group that Eielson is the only preferred alternative and that there are no plans to name another alternative in the future. He also confirmed that two squadrons, each including 24 jets, are planned. While the Environmental Impact Statement scoping meeting and public hearings schedules are not yet available, Begich assured the crowd he would push the Air Force to announce the public schedule soon.
Community members expressed concerns about a possible move of the F-16s and what that transition would look like. Begich assured them that he has been working closely with the Air Force on this issue. As a result, he was able to confirm at today’s meeting that if a decision is made to relocate the F-16s, the timing of F-16 mission departure and F-35 mission arrival would be worked to ensure minimal personnel and mission impacts.
Begich also informed meeting attendees that they could expect the Air Force to give their final decision on the Gray Eagle unmanned aircraft program by fall 2014.
Begich has long been a champion of a strong military presence in the Interior. He and the Alaska delegation have championed efforts to bring more investment in Alaska military infrastructure.