ANCHORAGE, AK – The Alaska Congressional Delegation released the following statements after the U.S. Air Force announced that the first F-35A squadron capable of handling a range of combat missions, known as Initial Operating Capability (IOC), is now ready. IOC demonstrates the confidence the Air Force has in the F-35 program and their success in ensuring the first squadron is ready for combat.
“Today is a great day for the Air Force and the future security of our nation,” said Congressman Young. “Like other defense procurement programs, the F-35 has faced setbacks. However, thanks to tough congressional oversight and dedicated Air Force leadership, this next generation of American air superiority has excelled and is now officially ready for Air Force operations. I look forward to the day in the not so distant future when Alaska will be our nation’s strategic and tactical powerhouse in the Asia Pacific and the Arctic — with two squadrons of F-35s, Apaches and Grey Eagles, F-22s, C-17s, 1-25 SBCT, 4-25 IBCT, and the Alaska National Guard.”
“This is a great step forward in our efforts to bring two squadrons of F-35s to Alaska. The IOC announcement means the Air Force is on track with its plans to base the F-35s at Eielson Air Force Base in Interior Alaska by 2020,” said Senator Murkowski. “Alaska is among the most strategic places in the world and this reinforces how crucial Eielson is to our national security and how imperative it is that we have the most capable assets available in the region. As threats around the globe continue to rise and the strategic importance of the Arctic becomes clear, we are proud in Alaska to be a nexus for our Nation’s defense.”
“I’m excited to hear that the F-35A has meet all the requirements to declare initial operational capability, and that the Airmen stand ready to deploy the close air support, interdiction, and suppression of enemy air defense missions,” Senator Sullivan said. “This is another positive step towards the arrival of the F-35As at Eielson Air Force Base by 2020 and affirms that Alaska is a critical hub of combat air power for our nation. Congrats to all of the Airmen who stand ready to answer our nation’s call.”
The nation’s first operational squadron of F-35A Joint Strike Fighters will be based at Hill Air Force Base, Utah. Two squadrons featuring a total of 54 F-35s will be based at Eielson AFB beginning in the 2019-2020 timeframe.