FORT SMITH, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — The River Valley community came together Wednesday to learn more about the Foreign Military Sales program that could be coming to Fort Smith.
A public input meeting gathered comments from state and local leaders and members of the community about an environmental study of the project. Hundreds of people attended the meeting. The pilot training mission would bring F-16s and F-35s to the Ebbing Air National Guard Base.
Lt. Col. Drew Nash with the 188th Wing said the possibility of bringing fighter jets back to Fort Smith is exciting.
“This is our chance to get those jets in the air, back in the air, so we can live out our heritage again,” Nash said.
Lt. Col. Nash said the impact of the mission would be widespread.
“Economic impacts, there will be jobs that are a part of this action and the future of the 188th Wing, this mission will affect a lot of things,” Nash said.
According to the environmental impact study, the program would bring about 384 jobs to the air base and an additional 800 dependents added to the local community. The study also shows noise would be the biggest impact of the fighter jets. Most local leaders and some community members said at Wednesday’s meeting that they accept the noise if it means the mission comes to Fort Smith.
Public comment on the study will stay open until Oct. 17. Ebbing is one of two locations being considered for the program. A final decision on whether or not Ebbing is selected is expected to come in the spring of 2023.