The Department of the Air Force has selected Ebbing Air National Guard Base (ANGB) in Fort Smith, Arkansas, as the preferred location for establishing an F-35 Lightning II training centre for Foreign Military Sales (FMS) participants.
The decision was announced by the Secretary of the Air Force’s Public Affairs Office (PAO) on June 3 and comes after several US allies and partner nations showed interest in conducting F-35 training at a US-based facility. As ramp and airspace capacity constraints have limited any expansion of Luke Air Force Base (AFB), Arizona – where early training for FMS F-35 customers is currently conducted – the US Air Force (USAF) was forced to search for an alternative location.
The new training centre at Ebbing ANGB will have a capacity for up to 36 examples of the fifth-generation multi-role stealth fighter once it has been established. Additionally, the Arkansas base will become the new location for the 425th Fighter Squadron ‘Black Widows’, which serves as a training unit for the Republic of Singapore Air Force’s F-16C/D Fighting Falcon fleet and is currently based at Luke AFB.
Acting Secretary of the Air Force, John P Roth, said: “The F-35 programme is a multi-service, multinational effort that dramatically increases interoperability between the US and other F-35 partner nations. We are fully committed to the F-35 as the cornerstone of the [USAF’s] fighter fleet and look forward to building stronger relationships with nations who want to work by our side.”
Following this decision, the Department of the Air Force will now conduct an environmental impact analysis to confirm that Ebbing ANGB can support the new F-35 and F-16 training missions. This selection also establishes Selfridge ANGB in Michigan as an alternative location in the unlikely event that the results of the environmental impact analysis determines the preferred location as unsuitable. The Department of the Air Force anticipates that a final basing decision will be made in the spring of 2023.