Big news for Fort Smith. The U.S. Air Force has officially selected Ebbing Air National Guard Base for a F-16 and F-25 training program. The announcement had been long coming. The Air Force named Ebbing its top pick for the training center in 2021, but couldn’t finalize the move until it complete an environmental impact study and held public comment.
From a release:
FORT SMITH, Ark. (March 15, 2023) – The Department of the Air Force has finalized the selection of Ebbing Air National Guard Base in Fort Smith as the site for the new home of the Foreign Military Sales Program (FMS) Pilot Training Center, hosting F-16 and F-35 training for participants.
On Friday, March 10, 2023, U.S. Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall signed a Record of Decision naming Ebbing Air National Guard Base as the official choice to host the military mission. Ebbing ANGB will become the new location for the 425th Fighter Squadron, a Republic of Singapore F-16 Fighting Falcon training unit, currently based at Luke Air Force Base in Arizona.
This mission will bring approximately 900 military members and their families to the greater Fort Smith region. The U.S. Air Force anticipates moving approximately 230 personnel to the base, and the Republic of Singapore will have 300 military personnel with 300 dependent families in the region.
“Arkansas isn’t just the best state in America for service members to live and raise a family – we’re also an international powerhouse. Today’s announcement makes that fact clear and cements Arkansas’ important role in training, equipping, and supplying our friends across the globe,” said Governor Sarah Sanders. “I look forward to welcoming the new U.S. Air Force personnel who will be moving to our state and am excited for all our international partners to discover the meaning of Arkansas hospitality. The Fort Smith community was instrumental in securing this major new mission for Ebbing Air National Guard Base – they have my deepest gratitude for their hard work.”
“The State of Arkansas has a long history of supporting our military and its missions, which are major economic drivers in Arkansas,” said Retired Air Force Col. Robert Ator, director of military affairs at the Arkansas Economic Development Commission. “The addition of hosting the Royal Singapore Air Force and the F-35 Foreign Military Sales Pilot Training Center only furthers that history and emphatically places Arkansas on the international stage for strategic deterrence, using the world’s most technologically advanced aircraft. This basing action is an example of the local community, the State of Arkansas, and the United States Air Force working together for our shared future and the stability of the globe at a time of great strategic competition.”
In its first phase, the new pilot training center will have capacity for up to 36 fighter aircraft. The mission will have a minimum of 36 aircraft: 12 F-16s and 24 F-35s.
The Record of Decision concludes a competitive process that began with five states vying for the sought-after U.S. Air Force mission. In June 2021, the Department of the Air Force announced that Ebbing ANGB was the preferred location for the mission. Following the announcement, the Department of the Air Force conducted an environmental impact analysis to determine that Ebbing could support the F-35 and F-16 missions.
“Reaching this milestone in the FMS process is monumental,” said Tim Allen, president and CEO of the Fort Smith Regional Chamber of Commerce. “With this decision, the Air Force is now officially making Fort Smith its home for Foreign Military Pilot Training. We could not have made it to this point without all the partners we’ve brought together, and I’m gratified that our community can celebrate this moment.”
“We’re very excited for all that this means for Fort Smith and the region,” said Fort Smith Mayor George McGill. “We are ready and willing to welcome these military members and their families to our community and show them the true meaning of Fort Smith hospitality. This is a big achievement for the area and one that will pay dividends for decades to come.”
The Foreign Military Sales program is a security assistance program that allows the U.S. government to sell defense products and services to foreign nations and organizations to strengthen the nation’s security and promote world peace.
The F-35A Lightning II is the U.S. Air Force’s latest fifth-generation fighter, which is designed to provide increased stealth and situational awareness, as well as reduced vulnerability for the United States and allied nations. The F-16 Fighting Falcon is an American single-engine multirole fighter aircraft originally developed for the United States Air Force. Designed as an air superiority day fighter, it evolved into a successful all-weather multirole aircraft.