EIELSON AIR FORCE BASE, Alaska The first F-35 to call Eielson its home will be arriving in a year, and airmen are already starting to arrive to get ready for when that first F-35 touches down.
"We just accepted and welcomed our first two maintainers at Eielson Air Force Base, but that's just the first of many, so a year from now we'll have 350 active duty airmen and their families, here at Eielson Air Force Base, and by the end of 2022, we'll have 1300 more airmen here supporting the base and supporting the mission," said Colonel Benjamin Bishop, commander of the 354th Fighter Wing.
With the base expanding to accept 54 F-35's, the mission of the base will be growing as well past the current training mission. "We're gonna keep doing that, we're just growing, and we're adding a combat mission with F-35's to that mission of preparing the joint force for 21st century combat, now we're going to be ready to project and integrate air power across the globe," said Bishop.
The maintainers and pilots who arrive before the planes do, will start training and preparing to hit the ground running when the first F-35 lands.
"As the airplanes get here, they're going to get right to work, so we're getting everything in place, making sure the infrastructure is there, making sure the training infrastructure is there, making sure the leadership is there, to take care of the mission and take care of airmen."
Bishop says over half a billion dollars of infrastructure is going into the base to accommodate the 54 F-35 aircrafts that are coming to Eielson. "We have 19 military construction projects they're ongoing, and then we have 22 refurbishment projects, so taking old buildings and making them new and ready for the F-35 mission, and those are all ongoing, again it's over half a billion dollars of infrastructure, and that timeline is very tight, as we all know in Alaska, we have two seasons, winter and construction season, we're getting after it here in April to be ready for that first aircraft delivery a year from now," said Bishop.
Bishop says they are working with the Fairbanks North Star Borough, since the base is not building any additional housing, "we're working with the community in order to have that housing needs articulated in order to have the support from the Fairbanks North Star Borough and our local partners in North Pole in order to make sure our airmen have a good place to live and a great place to call home in the Fairbanks North Star Borough."
The planes will start arriving in April 2020 and they are expected to all be at Eielson by December 2022.
The F-35's will be on display at Eielson's 'Arctic Lightning' air show held on July 13 of this summer.