- Associated Press - Monday, April 4, 2016

FAIRBANKS, Alaska (AP) - The Latest on F-35 fighter aircraft being assigned to Eielson Air Force Base:

12:15 p.m.

Eielson Air Force Base has been picked for the Air Force’s first operational overseas F-35A Lightning IIs.

The Air Force in an announcement says two F-35 squadrons are expected to be assigned to the base 26 miles south of Fairbanks.

Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James says in a statement that Alaska combines a strategically important location with a world-class training environment.

She says basing the F-35s at Eielson will allow the Air Force the capability of using the Joint Pacific Alaska Range Complex for large force exercises.

Eielson already has an F-16 Fighting Falcon aggressor squadron.

The F-35s are expected to arrive in 2020.

Construction on base to prepare for the aircraft is expected to start in fiscal year 2017.

1 a.m.

Eielson Air Force Base officials could announce whether the base will get two squadrons of F-35 fighter aircraft as soon as Monday.

The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reports (https://bit.ly/1RyH3jv ) that Monday marks the end of a 30-day waiting period before the Air Force can issue its decision. It’s also the day that the Greater Fairbanks Chamber of Commerce is hosting an event that includes presentations from Sen. Lisa Murkowski and the commander of Eielson’s 354th Fighter Wing.

The chamber hasn’t provided details about the event but advertised it as “one luncheon you don’t want to miss.”

State leaders have expressed support for bringing the F-35s to Eielson, citing potential economic benefits. An environmental review found that adding the 54 jets would inject $453 million into Interior Alaska’s economy from 2016-2020.

___

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

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