Eglin preferred location for additional F-35A squadron

J.M. Eddins Jr. / USAF

WASHINGTON, D.C. (WJHG/WECP) - Eglin Air Force Base has been named the preferred alternative to receive an additional F-35A training squadron.

The Air Force made the announcement Thursday.

Representatives say Eglin was the location of the F-35 Initial Joint Training Site hosting Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps F-35s.

“By basing the next F-35A training squadron at Eglin Air Force Base, we are taking advantage of existing facilities and training air space,” Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson said.

The Air Force said Eglin will only receive the additional F-35 training unit if the F-22 formal training unit temporarily operating at the base permanently moves to Langley Air Force Base. In March, the Air Force announced plans to move the F-22 training unit to Langley Air Force Base pending the National Environmental Policy Act and other regulatory and planning process. They say this F-35 basing action is dependent on completing environmental testing.

The Air Force said additional F-35As are expected to arrive in the fall of 2021. The new squadron is expected to be fully operational by spring 2023.

State lawmakers are excited about the news.

“President Trump and Air Force Secretary Wilson have once again proven their deep and abiding commitment to the United States Armed Forces, especially in Northwest Florida. Senator Rubio and I are deeply pleased today to announce that Eglin Air Force Base will be receiving an additional F-35A squadron – and with it, bringing over 500 additional military personnel members to our district. Eglin Air Force base has the capability to house, train, and equip our next generation of F-35A pilots. This is a tremendous victory for Florida’s First Congressional District, and we stand proud to have them flying through our skies in Northwest Florida,” Congressman Matt Gaetz said.

“I welcome the decision by the Air Force to make Florida’s Eglin Air Force Base home to two F-35A squadrons,” Senator Marco Rubio said. “My highest priority is ensuring the men and women who proudly and bravely serve our country have the tools they need to succeed. As we continue to take steps to rebuild our armed forces, ensure readiness, and modernize our equipment, I remain committed to ensuring the Air Force has the aircraft inventory necessary to compete with a near-peer adversary such as Russia or China.”

Copyright 2019 WJHG. All rights reserved.