FORT SMITH, Ark. – The U.S. Air Force announced Ebbing Air National Guard Base was selected as the home of future F-35 fighter planes and a Republic of Singapore F-16 squadron.
According to a news release sent Thursday, elected officials, state and community leaders collaborated to promote the capabilities and assets the Fort Smith region offers for military training and readiness, as well as urged the Federal Aviation Administration to expand military airspace which will provide more opportunities for specialized training.
On July 6, 2020, former Secretary of the Air Force Barbara Barrett signed a memorandum to establish a permanent Foreign Military Sales training center at a single location in the continental United States for up to 36 F-35 aircraft and a Republic of Singapore Air Force F-16 squadron.
It was also announced in July 2020 that Fort Smith was one of five finalists to host the mission.
Governor Asa Hutchinson said Thursday the selection committee “recognized that Arkansas is one of the most military-friendly states in the nation.”
“Our tax exemption for military retirement income and our licensing reciprocity initiatives are valuable tools for recruiting qualified employees and their families to Fort Smith,” Hutchinson said. “We have made significant progress toward building the most expansive fifth-generation airspace directly over Ebbing and an aerial range just four miles off the end of the runway. In my meeting with the Singaporean delegation and the U.S. Department of Defense, it was clear that they understood that Arkansas is a military friendly state and that the River Valley would wholeheartedly welcome the fighter-jet training. The support of our senators and representatives in Congress, and the members of the military affairs committee of AEDC were extremely helpful in winning this mission. We already are prepared to provide a first-rate quality of life for the families who will move here.”
U.S. Senator John Boozman (R- Arkansas) said the decision “strengthens Arkansas’s role in our nation’s defense.”
“I’m proud the U.S. Air Force and the Republic of Singapore recognized what we’ve known all along – Fort Smith is the ideal location for this mission,” Boozman said. “This is a win for the community and the entire state that was made possible in part thanks to the dedicated citizens who have tirelessly advocated the opportunities that exist here.”
In a statement, U.S. Senator Tom Cotton (R- Arkansas) thanked the Fort Smith community, federal delegation and the governor.
“Singapore’s F-16s and future F-35s will make good use of Arkansas’s strong workforce and excellent facilities,” Cotton said. “We’re all grateful that the Air Force and our friends from Singapore have chosen Fort Smith for this vital new national security mission.”
Congressman Steve Womack (R- District 3) said “Fort Smith is best positioned to take on this critical defense mission.”
“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. Fort Smith has a long history of community support of our defenders, and we look forward to welcoming this cutting-edge fighter fleet to Arkansas.”