F-35As are headed to Kingsley Field in Klamath Falls, Ore., which will become home to the Air Force’s third formal training F-35A training unit, the USAF announced May 25.
Some 20 F-35s will replace the 27 F-15Cs currently at the Oregon Air National Guard base, pending an environmental impact analysis that’s expected to finish in 2025. The move is a change from a 2020 plan to establish an F-15EX schoolhouse at Kingsley, which has long hosted F-15C/D training.
But given the “strategic focus in the Indo-Pacific Command theater” and the need to field fifth-generation aircraft “as quickly as possible,” the 173rd Fighter Wing announced in February that the plan was again under review.
The Air Force has also said it no longer plans to acquire 144 F-15EX Eagle IIs. After considering ending the program at 80 aircraft, planners now say they want a force of 104.
But what USAF really wants and needs are fifth-generation jets that combine low-observable stealth with advanced electronics to pose a more complex threat to adversaries. The Air Force’s fiscal 2024 budget request seeks 48 F-35s and 24 F-15EXs. At that rate, Chief of Staff Gen. Charles Q. Brown Jr. has said the F-35A will soon surpass the F-16 as the service’s biggest fighter fleet.
“The Eagle II is a fantastic aircraft, and Team Kingsley was ready and willing to take on that mission,” Col. Lee Bouma, 173rd Fighter Wing commander, said in a statement. “However, our strategic focus has shifted since 2020; the Air Force needs F-35 squadrons available and fully mission-capable to prevail against peer adversaries. … That means they require more F-35 pilots. Team Kingsley’s adaptability and excellence allows us to fill this Air Force need.”
The Air Force already has formal F-35 training units at Luke Air Force Base, Ariz., and Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. With Kingsley, the F-35 will match the F-16 in having three FTUs.
Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, N.C., will take over all basic F-15 training in early 2026, with follow-on training on their specific model at their first unit. F-15Cs will gradually be retired in the coming years, remaining longest in Air National Guard units. Newer F-15E and F-15EX models will remain as part of the Air Force’s planned four-fighter fleet of the future.
The Oregon ANG is still slated to get the F-15EX—the 142nd Wing at Portland Air National Guard Base is supposed to have the first operational F-15EX unit in fiscal 2025.