Air Force Official Touts Eielson Assets at Scoping Meeting

FAIRBANKS, Alaska  — Eielson Air Force Base has "phenomenal assets" that make it attractive for basing new F-35 fighter jets, an Air Force official said Wednesday at a public scoping meeting.

"One of the reasons the Air Force is looking at Eielson is there used to be more squadrons assigned at Eielson Air Force Base than we currently have," said Col. Michael Winkler. "We do have some decent capacity."

Eielson's 14,500-foot runway is long enough to land any aircraft in the Air Force, Winkler said. Ramp space can accommodate more than 130 aircraft. The base has good access to energy resources and a large munitions storage facility, he said.

"All of this current capacity has the Air Force thinking that Eielson is the preferred alternative in the Pacific," Winkler said.

The Air Force considered eight other locations for the first Pacific squadron of high-tech F-35s, the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reported. The Air Force in August announced Eielson as the preferred alternative for the 48 aircraft.

Public scoping meetings were required before a final decision. Air Force officials hosted a meeting Tuesday in North Pole and had one scheduled for Thursday in Delta Junction.

Basing F-35s at Eielson would move about 3,000 active duty personnel, contractors, civilians and dependents to the base, increasing Eielson's population to about 10,000 people, Winkler said. Two to four years of military construction projects are associated with the project, Winkler said.

Residents near the base 26 miles south of Fairbanks would see changes, he said.

"There's an increased frequency in the amount of flights. There's also going to be increased utilization in the airspace. You can see the airspace is relatively large, but there's probably going to be some impacts on some of the civilians, probably predominantly on the civil aviation side of the house," Winkler said.

He encouraged people to ask questions and offer positive or negative comments.

A second round of meetings will be held in about two months.

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