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.
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.