Eielson’s second F-35A unit receives first two aircraft

The second of two combat-coded US Air Force (USAF) Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning II fifth-generation multi-role stealth fighter squadrons at Eielson Air Force Base (AFB), Alaska, has received its first two aircraft.

The first conventional take-off and landing (CTOL)-configured F-35As for the 355th Fighter Squadron (FS) ‘Fighting Falcons’ were delivered to Eielson on the evening of April 29 from Lockheed Martin’s production facility in Fort Worth, Texas. The delivery comprised serials: 19-5534 ‘AK’ (c/n AT-15, originally allocated as 18-0015 for Turkey) and 19-5536 ‘AK’ (c/n AT-17, originally allocated as 18-0017 for Turkey).

First F-35A for 355th FS [USAF/Airman 1st Class Jose Miguel T Tamondong]
Lt Col Samuel Chipman, commander of the 355th FS 'Fighting Falcons', taxis one of the unit's first two Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning IIs to the flightline after arriving at Eielson AFB, Alaska, on April 29, 2021. The 355th FS is the second of two new F-35A units to be established under the 354th Fighter Wing at the Alaskan base and is due to achieve combat-ready status by the end of this year. USAF/Airman 1st Class Jose Miguel T Tamondong 

These aircraft were initially being manufactured for the Turkish Air Force and had already been on the production line when the US government cancelled the Turkish F-35 procurement contract in 2019, after the nation controversially purchased a number of Russian-made S-400 surface-to-air missile systems. Following this, the two F-35As were re-allocated for delivery to the USAF and have subsequently been delivered to the newly reactivated 355th FS at Eielson AFB.

The ‘Fighting Falcons’ were reactivated at Eielson on December 18, 2020, as the second F-35A squadron to be operated by the 354th Fighter Wing – which falls under the umbrella of the USAF’s Pacific Air Forces (PACAF) command.

The 355th was previously a Lockheed Martin F-16C/D Fighting Falcon unit at Naval Air Station Fort Worth Joint Reserve Base but had been deactivated two days earlier. However, the unit has previously been based at Eielson, having operated the Fairchild Republic A-10A Thunderbolt II close air support aircraft from there until August 15, 2007, when the final three aircraft departed the Alaskan base.

Alongside its sister unit, the 356th FS ‘Green Demons’, the 355th is following an aggressive schedule to achieve combat-ready status with the F-35A Lightning II by the end of 2021. To read more about the rapid build-up of F-35A operations from the Alaskan base, visit the link below: