US Set to Open New Training Facility for Foreign F-35 Pilots

US Set to Open New Training Facility for Foreign F-35 Pilots

The United States is set to inaugurate a new F-35 training site at Ebbing Air National Guard Base in northwest Arkansas this fall. This facility will become the latest U.S.-based hub dedicated to training foreign pilots as part of the global F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program, which now includes over 3,500 jets across 18 countries.

The new site aims to enhance the capabilities of U.S. allies and partners by allowing experienced American instructors to share their expertise with pilots from nations with less operational experience or limited resources for hosting multinational training programs.

Poland is scheduled to be the first foreign F-35 user to arrive at the new campus in September, followed by Finland, Germany, Switzerland, and Singapore in subsequent years. The training will be conducted by the newly formed 85th Fighter Group and 57th Fighter Squadron, set to open at Ebbing on July 2.

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This expansion complements existing training programs at Luke Air Force Base in Arizona, which currently hosts pilots from Italy, Norway, Denmark, and the Netherlands, with Belgium soon to join.

The seven-month Joint Strike Fighter training program will be split between Eglin Air Force Base in Florida and Ebbing. Trainees will begin with classroom lessons and simulated sorties at Eglin before moving to Ebbing for hands-on flight training.

The Air Force is investing $850 million to transform Ebbing into a state-of-the-art training facility, with completion expected by the end of 2028. Initially, classes will be held in temporary structures while permanent facilities are constructed.

The program aims to graduate about four pilots in 2025, increasing to approximately 36 graduates annually by the end of the decade. The base will host up to 36 aircraft, including 24 F-35s and 12 F-16s for Singapore’s training unit.

This new training site represents a significant step in strengthening international military cooperation and enhancing global F-35 operational capabilities. As the project progresses, it faces challenges including coordinating the needs of multiple countries, managing congressional funding, and navigating a volatile construction market.

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