WASHINGTON—Governor Asa Hutchinson,U.S. Senators John Boozman and Tom Cotton and Congressman Steve Womack applauded the U.S. Air Force announcement that Ebbing Air National Guard Base in Fort Smith was selected as the home of future F-35 fighter planes and a Republic of Singapore F-16 squadron.
“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. 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. Congratulations to Major General Kendall Penn, Colonel Leon Dodroe, 188th commander, other USAF leaders, the Air Force and the community leaders whose thoughtful efforts and hard work to sell Fort Smith landed a project that will pay dividends for years,” Hutchinson said.
“This 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. 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,” Boozman said.
“Fighter jets will return to the Arkansas River Valley, thanks to years of hard work by the Fort Smith community, our 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. We’re all grateful that the Air Force and our friends from Singapore have chosen Fort Smith for this vital new national security mission,” Cotton said.
“This decision reiterates what I have said from the start—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. 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,” Womack said.
For the past year, the elected officials have collaborated with state and community leaders to promote the unique capabilities and assets the Fort Smith region offers for military training and readiness. They’ve also urged the Federal Aviation Administration to expand military airspace which will provide more opportunities for specialized training.
On July 6, 2020, then-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. The same month it was announced that Fort Smith was one of five finalists to host this mission.