The Air Force has announced that Eielson Air Force Base, AK, is the preferred alternative to host the first F-35A Joint Strike Fighter squadrons in the Pacific area of responsibility.
In a press release issued today, Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James said range access was a key reason for the selection.
"Basing the F-35s at Eielson (AFB) will allow the Air Force the capability of using the Joint Pacific Alaska Range Complex for large force exercises using a multitude of ranges and maneuver areas in Alaska," James said in the statement. "This, combined with the largest airspace in the Air Force, ensures realistic combat training for the DOD."
The decision will be finalized once the service has conducted an environmental impact study, and according to the release, the service expects the first F-35As will arrive at Eielson AFB in 2019.
The release notes that now that the service has identified a preferred base for the F-35A's first Pacific presence, it will begin the process of identifying the location for the 18th Aggressor Squadron's F-16s. Eielson AFB will be included among those bases considered.