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NEWS | Oct. 31, 2023

F-35s Return to Kingsley Field

By Senior Master Sgt. Jennifer Shirar, 173rd Fighter Wing Public Affairs

KLAMATH FALLS, Ore. - U.S. Air Force F-35A Lightning II aircraft from Luke Air Force Base, Arizona, returned to the 173rd Fighter Wing to continue training and flying with the Oregon Air National Guard unit for two weeks in October.

“There’s been a lot of air traffic here the past two weeks,” said Col. Lee Bouma, 173rd Fighter Wing commander. “Generally, Kingsley Field flies approximately 20 sorties per day. With our guests in town, that number has been closer to 50 sorties per day.”

This is the third time the 56th Fighter Wing has brought its aircraft to Southern Oregon for training with the Oregon ANG F-15 Eagles. The first visit occurred in October 2022 when the Luke unit brought 14 aircraft for training on Kingsley Field’s extensive range. The unit returned in May of this year to test a new concept, an airbridge. Air traffic controllers joined the Kingsley and Mountain Home ranges, creating a 19,512 square-mile range training space.

In addition to the interoperability training both units receive when flying together, Bouma says there are future benefits for the 173rd FW.

“Luke’s F-35s operating from Kingsley Field help familiarize our Airmen across many specialties, from security to maintenance to pilots, with the F-35,” said Bouma. “It helps us make informed decisions on how best to set up our base to accept the first aircraft in 2026.”

In early May it was announced that the 173rd Fighter Wing was selected as the preferred location to host the next F-35A Lightning II training squadron.

While the wing works to complete the environmental impact statement and awaits the final decision, expected in early 2026, plans are already underway to help ensure a smooth transition from the F-15 Eagle training mission to the F-35A training mission.

“Operating the aircraft from Kingsley helps identify the facilities and procedures we need to be able to permanently base the aircraft at Kingsley Field,” Bouma said.

The training also allows the entire Klamath Falls community to see and hear the aircraft in their local environment.

Until the wing receives its F-35s, the aircraft will continue to regularly appear in the skies of Klamath Falls as Luke AFB is to return often over the next two years.

“The training and exposure to the F-35 system now is instrumental to our eventual conversion,” added Bouma.

 

 

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