Eielson AFB receives first F-35As

Alaska’s Eielson Air Force Base (AFB) and the wider Pacific Air Forces’ (PACAF) have welcomed the first two Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning II fifth-generation multirole stealth aircraft.

The aircraft arrived at the Alaskan base on April 21 and it marked an historic moment as the two examples are the first to be handed over for operations under the command of the PACAF.

Col Benjamin Bishop, 354th Fighter Wing (FW) commander, said: “Making the first aircraft arrival possible has been a long path, but it’s also just the first step in a journey that will continue at Eielson [AFB] for decades to come.”

Eielson AFB First F-35A [USAF/SSgt Zade Vadnais] #1
F-35A - serial 18-5345 - was one of the first two aircraft to be delivered to Eielson AFB. USAF/SSgt Zade Vadnais

In total, 54 F-35As will be delivered to the base by December next year. The Lightning will join Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptors from the nearby Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in making Alaska the most concentrated state for combat-coded, fifth-generation fighter aircraft.

“When you station the F-35 at Eielson AFB and you have the F-22 Raptor down at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, working together in the [Joint Pacific Alaska Range Complex (JPARC)] with our 18th Aggressor Squadron and ground training assets, you have the perfect training field for the F-35 to develop,” Bishop added.

The first two examples have fallen under the command of the 356th Fighter Squadron (FS) – a part of the 354th FW – which was recently reactivated in preparation for the F-35A and will begin its journey with the type to achieve full operational capability.

Lt Col James Christensen, 356th FS commander, said: “We [recognise] that when you do something big, like bring in a new mission and stand up a combat capability in a wing, that everybody on the base has a part to play in it.”