FORT SMITH, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — Ebbing Air National Guard Base has been selected as the location for a new training center for Foreign Military Sales, which will bring new jobs and F-16 and F-35 fighter jets.
It will have an F-35 Lightning II training center. The Foreign Military Sales program is estimated to bring approximately 250 additional full-time positions to Ebbing Air National Guard base, with a potential increase to 600, according to the press release.
“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,” said Acting Secretary of the Air Force John P. Roth. “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.”
Arkansas Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders responded to the announcement. She is excited about Arkansas’ international relations.
Today’s Record of Decision makes clear and cements Arkansas’ important role in training, equipping, and supplying our friends across the globe. This also means bringing jobs and economic prosperity to the state. I look forward to welcoming the new U.S. Air Force personnel who will be moving to our state and am excited for all our international partners to discover the meaning of Arkansas hospitality. The Arkansas Congressional Delegation and the Fort Smith community were instrumental in securing this major new mission for Ebbing Air National Guard Base – they have my deepest gratitude for their hard work.Arkansas Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders
Ebbing Air National Guard Base was announced as a preferred location for these missions in 2021. U.S. Air Force members of the delegation have worked to strengthen relationships with Singapore leaders and allies who have an interest in enhancing their air power with the F-35 in addition to recently securing $28 million to support the F-35 FMS program, according to a press release from Steve Womack.
Today’s Record of Decision makes official what Arkansans have known since the start of this process—Fort Smith is the premier location for F-35 FMS training and Singapore’s F-16 mission. Fort Smith’s central location, existing infrastructure, and airspace were essential differentiators but the people of Fort Smith and their desire to support national defense were truly the deciding factor. I’m proud the Air Force has made this final decision and look forward to hearing the ‘Sound of Freedom’ soon in the River Valley.Congressman Steve Womack
Tim Allen, the president of the Fort Smith Regional Chamber of Commerce, said the decision has been two and a half years in the making and involved competition with other states.
Allen said Fort Smith rolled out the red carpet to make everyone feel welcome. This will also have a big impact on the economy. The chamber estimates the decision will bring in $500 million to $1 billion each year.
When it comes to preparing the city for the influx of people, Allen thinks Fort Smith will be ready.
“The chamber will continue meeting with organizations to prepare to build houses, build out neighborhoods and build out infrastructure for the bed down,” Allen said.
Lt. Col. Drew Nash is the 33rd Fighter Wing Detachment 1 Commander at the Ebbing Air Base. He said the mission will bring in people from nations across the world to train in the F-16 and F-35 fighter jets.
He’s excited to see the jets hit the River Valley skies.
“I flew fighters here in the F-16 and the A-10. To get fighters back in Fort Smith– it’s just an amazing opportunity for all of us involved here,” Nash said.
This new training center will have a capacity for up to 36 fighter aircraft.
Flying is expected to start in 2025.