The Air Force will hold several public meetings later this month in Alaska to discuss its plan to bring the F-35A mission to Eielson Air Force Base near Fairbanks, according to a notice. The gatherings will take place on March 24 in North Pole, March 25 in Fairbanks, and March 26 in Delta Junction. These public scoping meetings—where Air Force officials present the plan and local residents can ask questions and voice concerns—are part of the process of conducting an analysis of the environmental impact of operating F-35As at Eielson. This analysis is required by law before the Air Force may issue a final basing decision. The Air Force leadership identified Eielson in August 2014 as its preferred location to host two squadrons of F-35As, a total of 48 frontline combat-ready jets. Eielson would be the service’s first F-35 base in the Asia-Pacific region. After the environmental analysis is completed, the Air Force expects to render the final decision in spring 2016. If the service leadership opts to proceed with the plan, the base is slated to receive its first F-35A in 2019. For more on Eielson and the F-35A, read Building Homes for F-35s in the March issue of Air Force Magazine. (See also Alaskan lawmakers’ release.)
Boeing’s receipt of the 10th lot contract award for the KC-46 Pegasus this week leaves just three lots left to complete the Air Force’s buy of the tanker, although a further buy of 75 additional aircraft as a “bridge” to the Next-Generation Aerial-refueling System (NGAS) seems increasingly likely.