FAIRBANKS, Alaska - The new F-35A Lightning ll has landed at Eielson Air Force Base for some winter testing.
Julia Laude takes us up close to learn about this new fighter plane.
Lt. Col. Tucker Hamilton; 461st Joint Striker Squadron Commander>>"America and our world needs this airframe. It is like nothing before it and because there's going to be 4,000 platforms and it's integrated with 14 partner nations and services, we need this to work and I'm telling you right now it is working."
Commander of the 461st Joint Striker Squadron, Lieutenant Colonel Tucker Hamilton and his small test team from Edwards Air Force Base, have also landed with the F-35A.
They will be at Eielson for about a month and then will return again in February for more testing.
However the F-35A will stay at Eielson Air Force Base until March, when testing will be completed - then it will return to Edwards Air Force Base.
354th Fighter Wing Commander at Eielson, Colonel David Mineau, says there's been a lot of buzz on the base with the arrival of the new jet.
Col. David Mineau; 354th Fighter Wing Commander>>"For most of us, it's the first time we've seen an F-35 in person, up close, so lots of people want to get in the hanger and be able to see it for the first time and it just kind of brings a sense of realism that yes, the F-35 mission is definitely coming to Eielson Air Force Base. And the fact that the Air Force is coming up to do extensive winter time testing - not only with this airplane but with six other airplanes into the new year - just makes the program that much more real and tangible to those that are living and working on Eielson Air Force Base."
United States House of Representatives, Congressman Don Young was also one of the scheduled speakers.
Young has advocated for the F-35s to be housed in Alaska since the inception of the new aircraft.
Rep. Don Young; (R) Alaska"I went to the Chairmen of the Armed Service Committee Mac Thornberry and I said, 'You know, Mac, if you're going to have this it ought to be in Fairbanks, Alaska.' And this is a great place for the military because of the missions. If you're going to stage you have to be in an area that will fulfill the mission. Right now I can get to Korea, which is a bad spot, in about eight and a half, nine hours and actually be in combat. I can actually get into the Middle East in about 12 and a half, 14 hours and there's no place in the United States that has that capability for a staging area."
U-S Air Force Alaskan Command Commander, Lieutenant General Kenneth Wilsbach says he has confidence in the new F-35 model.
Lt. Gen. Kenneth Wlsbach; USAF Alaskan Commander>>"When we have the full complement of 54 F-35s here in concert with the 48 F-22s that we have at J-Bear, we will be the only place in the world that has 100 fifth generation aircraft and so any threat would look at those they have to calculate what that means to them. The ability to have more than a hundred fifth generation aircraft all with the capability to fly as long as twelve hours at a time means that they can reach almost anywhere in the northern hemisphere in one mission. It really illustrates the geographic importance and strategic importance of Alaska and Eielson Air Force base."
Construction on the flight simulator at Eielson is set to be complete by September 19, 2018, with the F-35's beginning to arrive in the Spring of 2020. The final F-35 is scheduled to be delivered in 2022.
This is Julia Laude reporting.