Air Force wants to establish F-35 FMS pilot training center

By Briana Reilly / January 19, 2022 at 1:30 PM

The Air Force is seeking to establish a permanent foreign military sales pilot training center to provide initial F-35 training and pilot production for countries planning to purchase the jets, a recently filed environmental notice shows.

The service is looking at hosting the center at Ebbing Air National Guard Base, AR or Selfridge ANG Base, MI, according to a notice of intent published Jan. 14 to prepare an environmental impact statement for the effort.

The center, which would operate under Air Force Air Education and Training Command, would consist of up to 16 F-16 aircraft from the Republic of Singapore Air Force, relocated from Luke Air Force Base, AZ, in addition to a maximum of 36 F-35 FMS aircraft, per the notice.

AETC spokeswoman Capt. Lauren Woods told Inside Defense that Ebbing is “the preferred location” for the new center and location of Singapore’s F-16 training unit, the 425th Fighter Squadron.

Singapore is among the countries buying F-35s, and the notice says officials plan to keep some of those fighters “in the U.S. for an indefinite period of time.”

“Multiple nations have agreements with the Air Force to purchase F-35 aircraft,” the notice states. “This drives the need for a location suitable for initial F-35 training before returning to their home country.”

The environmental impact statement will assess the potential effects on land use, airspace, air quality, environmental justice and more stemming from construction and renovation at the base as well as aircraft operation. Officials will also analyze the potential for a no-action alternative.

Going forward, the Air Force has two virtual scoping meetings scheduled for Feb. 1 and Feb. 3 to help identify issues to include in the forthcoming environmental analysis. After that, the service anticipates it will have a draft environmental impact statement and notice of availability published in the fall, followed by a public comment period and hearing.

The final environmental impact statement and notice of availability are projected to be completed in winter 2022-2023, with a record of decision signature coming next spring.

After the EIS is finalized and any further considerations from senior leaders are taken into account, Woods said “the process of standing up the center would begin shortly thereafter.”