Base in Alaska leading candidate to host F-35 Air Force squadrons

FAIRBANKS, Alaska — The Air Force’s next generation fighter aircraft could be calling Alaska home, members of the state’s congressional delegation said Thursday.

Eielson Air Force Base in Fairbanks is the leading candidate to be home to the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter plane, the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reported.

Alaska’s two U.S. senators, Democrat Mark Begich and Republican Lisa Murkowski, announced Thursday that Eielson is the preferred candidate. Eielson had previously been on a short list of five Pacific bases to house two squadrons.

None of the other four bases was named as an alternative site, and the final determination is expected in November 2015.

If selected, Eielson would be home to two squadrons of 24 planes each.

A study from the Fairbanks Economic Development Corp. said putting two squadrons at Eielson would create about 3,000 Department of Defense jobs in the Fairbanks area. The study also estimated that would bring in an additional $379 million in annual payroll to the area.

If selected, it would be a second round of good news for the Fairbanks base. In June, the Air Force canceled an environmental review of moving F-16 fighter jets from Eielson to Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, another sign that squadron will remain in Interior Alaska.

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