To the editor: This week well over a dozen members of the Fairbanks community, including the military, joined Sen. Dan Sullivan, Congressman Don Young and me at the Lockheed Martin F-35 assembly plant in Fort Worth, Texas, where we were able to see Alaska’s own F-35As currently in production and which will soon be heading to Eielson Air Force Base. It was truly fitting for members of the community to be there to celebrate this milestone.
The group included part of the original Tiger Team — mayors, representatives, and community leaders — who have been fiercely advocating for the military in the Interior for over a decade. This core group of Fairbanksans demonstrated that the significance of a strong military in the Interior cannot be overlooked. They fought to make sure Eielson Air Force Base didn’t turn to warm-basing status. Together, we fought to keep the lights on.
If it weren’t for their efforts and community support, Eielson would not have been able to take on these fifth-generation fighters.
The first aircraft are scheduled to be delivered in April 2020, with a total of 54 to arrive by December 2021. Along with the increased security benefits of the aircraft, construction activity in the Interior associated with the basing of the F-35As has been estimated to bring more than 2,300 new construction jobs and generate over $450 million in economic output when all is said and done. This is significant for the region but, more importantly, also for our broader national security.
My sincere thanks and appreciation to the Fairbanks community for your strong support of our military.