The US Air Force (USAF) reactivated the 355th Fighter Squadron (FS) at Eielson Air Force Base (AFB) on December 18, marking the arrival of the second Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning II unit in Alaska.
After spending 13 years inactive, the ‘Fighting Falcons’ – as they are nicknamed – returned to operational status following a reactivation ceremony at Eielson AFB. The unit joins the 354th Fighter Wing (FW) as the second combat-coded F-35A squadron at the Alaska base, where it will work alongside the already-established 356th FS. The USAF states that the return of the 355th effectively doubles the F-35A combat capability of the Pacific Air Forces (PACAF).
Lt Col Samuel Chipman, the newly-appointed commander of the ‘Fighting Falcons’, said: “The 354th FW has been tasked with standing up two combat-coded F-35A squadrons for a total of 54 F-35As at Eielson AFB.
“The squadron’s primary mission is the suppression of enemy air defences and offensive counter-air missions. Having two combat-coded F-35A squadrons at Eielson AFB will provide PACAF and combatant commanders across the global additional asset and deployment options, should the need arise to deter aggression by our adversaries,” he added.
The 355th already has history with Eielson AFB, having flown the Fairchild Republic A-10C Thunderbolt II close air support/ground attack aircraft from the Alaskan base prior to its deactivation in August 2007. The reactivation of the 355th also reunites the ‘Pioneer Mustang Group’ at Eielson, which comprises the 353rd Combat Training Squadron (CTS), 355th FS and 356th FS. This hasn’t happened since all three units were based at Myrtle Beach AFB, South Carolina, in the early 1990s.