Editor’s Note: As we previously reported, one of the bed-down locations for the Air Force’s brand-new Joint Strike Fighter is at Eielson Air Force Base, just outside of Fairbanks, Alaska. Once the Lightning IIs are at Eielson, it will establish Alaska as a bastion of Air Dominance. Between the F-35s and the F-22s down the road at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska would become an example of 5th-Generation fighter integration at its finest. If the plan moves forward, the first of the Lightning IIs should arrive in 2019.

The U.S. Air Force is one step closer to bringing two squadrons of F-35 fighter jets to Eielson Air Force Base.

An environmental impact statement released Thursday found that the proposal to bring in more than 50 F-35s to the base by 2021 would result in economic growth for the communities near the base.

Construction alone is estimated to inject $453 million into the local economy, the report found. Additionally, more than 1,500 military and civilian personnel would be added to the base by 2020 to support the new aircraft.

Eielson AFB: One Step Closer To Fielding F-35s By 2019
The flagship of the USAF Warfare Center prepares to launch for a test mission. (Photo by Scott Wolff)

Edward Richards, the owner of a local diner, said he was preparing to close his business in 2012 when the base was looking to downsize. Richards says now he is looking forward to the possibility of an increase in business if the plan moves forward.

“They all shop. They all buy gas. They all have to eat,” says Richards. “As far as I’m concerned, it can do nothing but help the community grow.”

Defense officials first announced plans to station around 50 F-35s in the Pacific region in 2014. Since then, the proposal has seen wide support from Alaska’s congressional delegation.

“I have long supported bringing the F-35s to Eielson, not only for the positive economic impacts it will bring to our state, but for the critical mission the F-35s will support,” said Rep. Don Young in a statement issued Thursday. “No other location in the world offers the strategic value offered in Alaska, and the Air Force has recognized that.”

The article in its entirety can be viewed here.

(Featured photo courtesy of U.S. Air Force/Senior Airman Jeremy L. Mosier)