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Alaska Gov. Parnell asks Pentagon to add F-16s to Eielson

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Posted: Tuesday, February 12, 2013 12:29 pm | Updated: 8:10 pm, Tue Feb 12, 2013.

FAIRBANKS - Gov. Sean Parnell is asking the Pentagon to consider relocating an F-16 squadron from Germany to Eielson Air Force Base.

In a letter sent Monday to Air Force Secretary Gen. Mark A. Welsh, Parnell asked the Air Force to include that option in a draft environmental impact statement planned for Eielson. The EIS is part of a proposal to relocate the 18th Agressor Squadron from Eielson to Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson near Anchorage.

Parnell argues in his letter than “to ensure the full range of issues associated with the EIS is complete,” the Air Force should also consider relocating 24 F-16 aircraft and associated personnel from the 280th Fighter Squadron from Spangdalehm Air Force Base in Germany. Under the proposal, the 280th would become part of the 354th Fighter Wing at Eielson.

The draft EIS is a step needed to move the 21-aircraft F-16 squadron from Eielson to Elmendorf-Richardson, an Air Force proposal that Parnell and Alaska’s congressional delegation have opposed. If the squadron were moved, roughly half of the 3,100 military and civilian jobs would be relocated, according to an Air Force estimate.

Parnell said he also wants to make the case to the military that Alaska has been a supportive location for troops during a stressful decade of deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan. Alaska has been affected more than most states by those wars, he said, because Stryker and Airborne troops have been on heavy deployment rotations.

“Our troops from our state have given a lot, and our communities have supported them,” Parnell said during an editorial board meeting at the News-Miner on Tuesday. “From an operation standpoint, you need them.”

Parnell said he hadn’t received a response yet to the letter.

The request that the Germany-based squadron be included in the draft EIS is a new wrinkle, but Parnell argues in the letter that it’s consistent with the Air Force mission.

Parnell states that consolidating two F-16 squadrons at Eielson, while turning Spangdalehm into a scaled-down “warm base,” would reduce operational costs. The move would also move the 480th Fighter Squadron closer to training grounds, and allow them to deploy more easily to Asia and the Pacific Rim, areas where the U.S. military wants a stronger presence.

The letter also argues that additional personnel and aircraft are consistent with previous use at Eielson, where the 354th Fighter Wing operated both F-16 and A-10 aircraft through 2007.

Contact staff writer Jeff Richardson at 459-7518.

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