- Associated Press - Wednesday, February 4, 2015

FAIRBANKS, Alaska (AP) - President Barack Obama’s proposed budget includes a request for $37 million to build an F-35 flight simulator facility at Eielson Air Force Base.

The budget item would help prepare for arrival of 48 F-35A fighter jets at Eielson in 2020, the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reported (http://is.gd/HcWt6w ).

Congress has final say on the budget. But U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s office is optimistic about it.

“The fact that the administration is moving toward this means the Pentagon is moving toward this, and that’s a positive,” said Matthew Felling, a spokesman for the Alaska Republican. “Verbal commitments have a strong reassurance factor, but the bottom line is always the bottom line. A budget represents bottom-line discussions, and it’s clear the military’s long-term budget has Eielson on track for the F-35s.”

The F-35 is meant to replace some military aircraft, including the Air Force’s F-16 Fighter Falcons now stationed at Eielson.

In August, Eielson was named as the preferred site to host the first Pacific squadron of F-35s. The Pentagon, however, has not definitively confirmed that the planes will be based at Eielson.

The request in the budget proposal is for construction of a new facility at Eielson with six simulator bays, secure work areas and training classrooms. An existing structure would be altered and expanded for the operations.

The current average cost of the F-35 is about $150 million per plane, according to Lockheed Martin Corp.’s website. In 2014, the Department of Defense announced a plan that seeks to decrease the cost of each fighter jet to $85 million.

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Information from: Fairbanks (Alaska) Daily News-Miner, http://www.newsminer.com

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