Fairbanks, AK - Amid the announcement that the Air Force will not relocate Eielson’s 18th Aggressor Squadron, Senator Mark Begich added that the delegation is also awaiting an announcement from the Air force outlining criteria for basing the new F-35 fighter jet outside the continental United States. “It’s basically all the pieces of the puzzle to make sure a squadron can be placed in a location so everything from does Eielson have the right capacity to grow, does it have airfield capacity, does it have the right capacity for training?” explains the Senator.
Begich says the Air Force could provide their criteria as early as Thursday. During Wednesday’s teleconference, Fairbanks City Mayor Jerry Cleworth told the congressional delegation he’s ready to lobby the military to base a squadron of F-35’s at Eielson. “In the last few days, we’ve learned everything there is to know about F-35s, so we are willing and waiting.” Fairbanks Borough Mayor Luke Hopkins also says he’s optimistic. “It’s like the clouds have cleared and there’s a sharp view of what’s ahead for us and that’s what I am ready to move on," says Hopkins. The Air Force recently chose Eielson as one of two locations where they might base the F-35s.