KINGSLEY FIELD, Ore. - The Air Force has selected the Oregon Air National Guard’s 173rd Fighter Wing as the preferred location to host the service’s next F-35A Lightning II training squadron. The F-35A is the Air Force’s latest and most-capable fifth-generation fighter.
The basing decision, announced May 25, becomes final when a Record of Decision is signed upon favorable completion of an environmental impact statement.
“Kingsley Field is an integral piece of the Air Force’s modernization plan,” said Col. Lee Bouma, 173rd Fighter Wing commander. “Our vast airspace, a culture of excellence, and unprecedented community support make us a viable fit to continue our legacy of training the next generation of fighter pilots.”
The F-35A Lightning II provides next-generation stealth capabilities to the United States and many U.S. allies and partner nations with its aerodynamic performance, advanced integrated avionics, enhanced situational awareness and survivability.
The F-35A is considered the cornerstone of the future fighter fleet and guarantees the long-term viability of the 173rd FW and its vital air superiority mission for many years.
“This decision validates the wing’s exceptional performance,” said Bouma. “We have been in the training business since 1983 — producing the best fighter pilots in the world for the U.S. Air Force. Team Kingsley’s ‘No Slack’ attitude and commitment to excellence is a key factor in this decision.”
The 173rd FW has been the premiere F-15C training base for the Air Force since 1998. The single-seat F-15C and two-seat F-15D models entered the inventory beginning in 1979. The service is looking to replace the legacy fighters with state-of-the-art aircraft to address future mission requirements.
“The Air Force continues to modernize the fleet to ensure a more lethal, resilient, sustainable and agile force,” said Bouma. “The Air Force recognizes that the 173rd Fighter Wing is essential to this future.”
The decision to place the F-35A training squadron at Kingsley Field supersedes the 2020 announcement locating the F-15EX Eagle II training base here.
“The Eagle II is a fantastic aircraft, and Team Kingsley was ready and willing to take on that mission,” said Bouma. “However, our strategic focus has shifted since 2020; the Air Force needs F-35 squadrons available and fully mission-capable to prevail against peer adversaries. ... That means they require more F-35 pilots. Team Kingsley’s adaptability and excellence allows us to fill this Air Force need.”
The F-35A basing includes 20 aircraft. The number of personnel will remain the same.
The change will require constructing or remodeling existing facilities, although Kingsley Field already offers much of the needed infrastructure. Any construction would begin after the Record of Decision is signed, expected in 2025, with the first F-35 aircraft to follow.