The first of two combat F-35 squadrons will be reactivated at a ceremony conducted by the 354th Fighter Wing at Eielson Air Force Base on Thursday afternoon.
The ceremony, which will also entail the assumption of command of the squadron, is a “key milestone of the F-35 beddown,” according to a news release issued by the base.
The new squadron, designated the 356th Fighter Squadron, will be the first of two combat F-35 squadrons stood up at Eielson. Ultimately, 54 fifth-generation fighter aircraft and approximately 1,300 additional personnel will be brought to the base to support increased mission capabilities. The first jets are scheduled to arrive April 2020.
According to Airman 1st Class Aaron L. Guerrisky, a squadron is reactivated after it has been stood down.
“For instance, the 356th Fighter Squadron has a long and storied history dating back to World War II,” Guerrisky said, noting that it was stood down in 1992. “We are looking forward to continuing that lineage here at Eielson with the F-35 arrival.”
Guerrisky said some personnel have started to arrive on base, including operators, maintainers and F-35 pilots.
“Much of what they’re doing is preparing the squadron for the arrival of the rest of the unit,” Guerrisky said. “The assumption of command is ceremonial in nature, but it’s certainly linked with the real-world arrival of airmen and their families, too.”
While a date has not yet been confirmed for the arrival of the second of the two fighter squadrons to be stood up at Eielson, all 1,300 personnel are expected to arrive by the winter of 2021.The base is scheduled to have two aircraft per month arrive after the initial aircraft are delivered in April 2020; all 54 aircraft are expected to be on Eielson by the winter of 2022.
Construction of supporting infrastructure at the base has already begun.
“The Air Force has invested over $500 million to prepare the base for the arrival of the F-35,” Guerrisky said. “We’ve built new facilities, but we’ve also renovated many existing facilities as well.”
Lt. Col. James T. Christensen will assume command of the new squadron.
Contact staff writer Alistair Gardiner at 459-7575. Follow him on Twitter: @FDNMoutdoors.