Eglin Air Force Base receives second F-35 squadron in Northwest Florida
EGLIN AFB – A second squadron of F-35A fighter jets is arriving at Eglin Air Force Base, according to an announcement Monday by US Senator Marco Rubio, R-Fla.
While details were scarce, this news was confirmed on Tuesday by public affairs staff from the 33rd Fighter Wing, the Eglin-based wing to which the new squadron will be assigned, and the 96th Test Wing, the base host unit.
In a press release from his office, Rubio called the Air Force announcement of the arrival of a new training squadron in Eglin “a great victory for Northwest Florida and the state of. military preparation of our country “.
From 2019: Next F-35 training squadron will likely arrive in Eglin
According to Rubio’s announcement, a new squadron will bring 24 F-35A jets to Eglin. Other estimates of the impact of the new squadron indicated it could bring up to 500 new employees to the facility.
Ann Stefanek, the Air Force‘s media operations chief, said the service informed Congress of its decision on Monday, but did not make a broader announcement as the Air Force was still working on the relocation schedule. .
“The culmination of years of work”
Closer to home, 33rd Fighter Wing Commander Colonel Jon Wheeler called the announcement “the culmination of years of work to bring increased capabilities to the 33rd Fighter Wing mission.”
Wheeler added that the 33rd Fighter Wing is “delighted with this decision, which will effectively double our production of F-35 pilots in the future and ultimately improve the readiness of our combat air forces.” “.
Expectations that Eglin would get a second F-35A squadron to train pilots and maintenance personnel on the fifth-generation stealth fighter began to form in 2019, when the Air Force announced that Eglin was his preferred location for a new F-35A squadron.
This announcement was followed by an assessment that included an assessment of the squadron’s potential environmental impacts, including the possibility of noise pollution for areas near Eglin.
Monday’s announcement is an indication that the environmental assessment, which included public comment on the proposed addition of an F-35A squadron, was completed.
As it announced that Eglin was its preferred location for a new F-35A squadron, the Air Force indicated that the new aircraft could begin arriving in the fall of 2021, with a new squadron expected to reach its full operational capacity by the spring of 2023.
The Air Force’s proposed budget for the upcoming fiscal year, which begins October 1, provides for the acquisition of 48 new F-35A aircraft.
The F-35A is the Air Force’s version of the fifth-generation stealth fighter and has been part of the Eglin flight line aircraft since 2011.
The base also hosted Marine Corps training on the F-35B, which can land vertically and take off a short distance, and hosted Navy training on the F-35C, designed to operate from carrier- planes.
The Marine Corps relocated its F-35Bs in 2014 and the Navy relocated its F-35Cs in 2019 after the completion of initial training on the aircraft.
Tyndall also expects new F-35s
The announcement of a new F-35A training squadron arriving at Eglin comes just months after the Air Force announced that three new F-35A squadrons will be arriving at Tyndall Air Force Base near Panama City as part of the 325th Fighter Wing.
The move came days after Hurricane Michael nearly wiped out Tyndall in 2018. The base is being rebuilt as what the Air Force calls “the facility of the future,” in part specifically to respond to needs of the F-35A.
The first of what will ultimately be a fleet of 72 F-35A jets is expected to begin arriving in Tyndall in September 2023, according to the Air Force.
Tyndall and Eglin’s F-35As can easily take advantage of the Gulf test and training field, which includes a 120,000 square mile section of the eastern Gulf of Mexico.
Telemetry and other range equipment are being modernized to meet the testing and training needs of the Air Force and other military services that use the range, which is overseen by the 96th Wing Eglin test.