FAIRBANKS—The Air Force finalized the criteria this week for determining the next basing location of the service’s newest fighter jet.
Eielson Air Force Base near North Pole is one of nine Pacific Rim Air Force bases that could potentially house the new F-35A Joint Strike Fighter.
Based on criteria presented to members of Congress this week, the Air Force plans to identify a list of candidate bases among the nine Pacific installations, according to Air Force spokeswoman Ann Stefanek at the Pentagon. The exact criteria presented to Congress this week are classified, but generally speaking it’s a “standard list of criteria for most basing actions,” she said. The criteria include “mission, capacity, environmental considerations, and cost factors.”
The Interior’s political and business leaders have long advocated basing the F-35A at Eielson because a new squadron of aircraft would insulate the base from threats of closure and could potentially bring new airmen and civilian jobs to the region.
Eielson was the target of a Defense Department reduction effort in 2005. Defense officials proposed removing the base’s F-16 and A-10 squadrons, but a congressional authorized independent panel ultimately recommended that only the A-10s be transferred out.
Pacific Air Forces commander Maj. Gen. Hawk Carlisle identified Eielson among four of the nine bases likely to house the F-35 in an interview with reporters in Washington, D.C. in July. In his comments he praised Eielson’s abundant training space but said the base’s winters and its remoteness presented challenges.
All three members of Alaska's Congressional delegation or their staff were briefed on the F-35 criteria. They plan to draft a joint letter about the F-35 basing criteria next week, according to Matthew Felling, a spokesman for Sen. Lisa Murkowski.
Contact staff writer Sam Friedman at 459-7545.