Air Force leaders have selected Ebbing Air National Guard Base in Fort Smith, Arkansas, as the preferred location to establish an F-35A Lightning II training center for foreign military sales participants.
The decision would also lead to the move of the 425th Fighter Squadron, a Republic of Singapore air force F-16 training unit currently based at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona.
The decision was announced last week and has come under fire from some in Congress who represent other states that were in contention for the center.
Air Force officials said several U.S. allied and partner nations have shown interest in conducting F-35 training at a U.S.-based facility, but ramp and airspace constraints at Luke Air Force Base limited expansion.
The new training center will have capacity for up to 36 fighter aircraft. Officials must conduct an environmental impact analysis to confirm Ebbing can support the new F-35 and F-16 missions before the decision is final.
Officials said t if Ebbing is unable to support the center, then Selfridge Air National Guard Base in Michigan would be the alternate location. Other candidates considered for the mission included Hulman Field in Terre Haute, Indiana; Buckley Air Force Base in Aurora, Colorado; and Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland in Texas.
Following the Air Force notice, Michigan’s two senators, Sen. Debbie Stabenow and Sen. Gary Peters, said they would seek answers from Air Force leaders on the decision-making process.
Both said they believed Selfridge should have been chosen over the Arkansas location.
But Arksansas officials, including Sen. Tom Cotton, Sen. John Boozman and Rep. Steve Womack, praised the decision, calling it a win for Arkansas, the Air Force and military partners.
"Our strategic location, coupled with the River Valley's airspace, strong infrastructure, and capable workforce, will allow us to seamlessly support our valued allies and the next generation of air combat capabilities," Womack said. "I'm proud the Air Force and Singapore recognized this confluence of attributes."
The final basing decision is expected in spring 2023.