The first military air show in Interior Alaska in more than 10 years takes place this summer on July 13.
The Arctic Lightning Airshow will feature the new F-35 Lightning II, the Air Force’s newest fighter jet, which will be stationed in Alaska starting in 2020.
The event, open to the public, will occur at Eielson Air Force Base, which is about 30 minutes from Fairbanks on the Richardson Highway.
Demo teams for the F-35 fighter jet and other military aircraft, along with entertainment acts and food trucks, are scheduled to be part of the show, scheduled for July 13. July 14 is set aside as a backup day should weather be a problem.
Air shows are common in Anchorage, where the Arctic Thunder air show takes place every two years, but Eielson hasn’t hosted a show since 2008.
Hosting a new air show in the Interior has been a goal of Col. Benjamin Bishop, who took command of the 354th Fighter Wing at Eielson in July, said wing spokesman 2nd Lt. Kitsana Dounglomchan.
“It was his vision to say, ‘I want to open up the base to the community and do it a little bit different,’” Dounglomchan said.
In recent years, the base has hosted open houses with aircraft displays on the ground.
“As an air show, you’re actually going to have planes flying around doing acrobatics and demos. What’s really cool about this year is you’re going to have the F-35. You couldn’t time it any better with us getting 54 F-35s starting in 2020. This is a chance for people to get out and touch noses with the plane,” Dounglomchan said.
Details of the event are still being worked out, but doors of the base are expected to open at 8 a.m. The main Hursey Gate will be used for people with U.S. Department of Defense ID cards. The new gate, farther south on the Richardson Highway, will open for non-DOD cardholders.
The event will be free and the base has ample room for large groups of people. According to the Air Force, about 6,000 people came to the 2008 air show despite rainy conditions. These year, the base will have the capacity to accommodate a crowd of 10,000 people, Dounglomchan said.
Planned air show lineup
• F-35 Lightning II Demo Team — This is the model of fifth-generation fighter that will be stationed at Eielson starting in 2020. Fairbanksans have been hearing about this plane and seeing bumper stickers with its silhouette for years as the Air Force considered whether base its newest fighter jets in Alaska and then began preparing for their arrival. The demo team is based at Luke Air Force Base, in Arizona.
• Pacific Air Forces F-16 Viper Demo Team — The F-16 is the model of fourth-generation fighter based at Eielson. The demo team is based at Misawa Air Base, Japan.
• Air Force Academy Wings of Blue — This is a skydiving team based at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs.
• Joint Forces Demonstration — This demonstration will feature both Air Force and Army forces. It’s designed to give the public a sense of what happens during the Red Flag training exercises, Dounglomchan said.
Other acts will be announced at a later date.