TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (WTWO/WAWV) — Ebbing Air National Guard Base in Fort Smith, Arkansas has been chosen by the U.S. Air Force to host a new training center; Hulman Field at Terre Haute Regional Airport was among the top five sites up for consideration.
Rick Burger, Terre Haute Regional Airport board member said that he’s disappointed in the decision; however, he noted Terre Haute gained valuable exposure from the experience.
“Okay, we didn’t get this one, but let me tell you, people know where Terre Haute is and what we have to offer,” he said. “And we’re not done yet because we’ve got a lot of opportunities coming out here.”
The Arkansas base will serve as an F-35 Lightning II training center for Foreign Military Sales participants. According to a press release sent Thursday, the decision comes after multiple U.S. ally and partner nations as well as U.S. cities showed interest in hosting the base.
Along with the training center, Ebbing will serve as the new location for the 425th Fighter Squadron, a Republic of Singapore Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon training squad that was previously based at Luke Air Force Base in Arizona. Ramp and airspace size limited expansion within the Luke base, sparking the change, Acting Secretary of the Air Force John P. Roth said in a statement Thursday.
Roth also said that the F-35 program, which will provide higher situational awareness and stealth capabilities to pilots, is a high priority for the Air Force.
“The F-35 program is a multi-service, multi-national effort that dramatically increases interoperability between the U.S. and other F-35 partner nations,” he said. “We are fully committed to the F-35 as the cornerstone of the U.S. Air Force’s fighter fleet and look forward to building stronger relationships with nations who want to work by our side.”
This decision, according to the press release, is pending an environmental impact study on the Ebbing base to be conducted by the Air Force. If the base is deemed unsuitable to house the F-35 and F-16 missions, Selfridge Air National Guard Base in Michigan has been identified as the alternate location.