SALEM, Ore. (KTVZ) -- Gov. Tina Kotek announced Thursday that the Secretary of the U.S. Air Force has selected Kingsley Field Air National Guard Base in Klamath Falls as the sole host of the F-35A Lightning II Fighter Wing training squadron.
Kingsley Field Air National Guard Base is the home base of the Oregon Air National Guard's 173rd Fighter Wing. The F-35A is the Air Force’s latest and most-capable fifth-generation fighter.
“Kingsley Field Air National Guard Base is a point of pride for Oregonians,” Governor Kotek said. “The Secretary’s decision affirms the Oregon Military Department’s unwavering commitment to excellence in training and readiness, while providing for the successful future of the Air National Guard and the United States Air Force. I am grateful to Oregon’s congressional delegation for collaborating in Washington to help today come to fruition.”
The decision becomes final when the Secretary of the Air Force signs a Record of Decision upon favorable completion of an Environmental Impact Statement on the proposal now underway.
The F-35A Lightning II provides next-generation stealth capabilities to the U.S. and many U.S. ally and partner nations with its aerodynamic performance, advanced integrated avionics, enhanced situational awareness and increased survivability.
The F-35A is considered the cornerstone of the future fighter fleet and guarantees the long-term viability of the 173rd Fighter Wing in Oregon and continuation of its vital air superiority mission for many years to come.
The decision to place the F-35A training squadron at Kingsley Field supersedes the previous announcement in 2020 that placed the F-15EX Eagle II training base here.
“General Brown, Chief of Staff of the Air Force, endlessly advocates a culture of modernization. This decision to bring F-35’s to Oregon delivers leading edge technology to Kingsley Field in support of this effort and provides for the future and the long-term success of the United States Air Force,” said Maj. Gen. Mike Stencel, Adjutant General, Oregon. “The positive partnership with the community of Klamath Falls and the Oregon Air National Guard will continue and remain fruitful for decades to come.”
“Kingsley Field is an integral piece of the Air Force’s modernization plan,” said Col. Lee Bouma, 173rd Fighter Wing commander. “Our vast airspace, a culture of excellence, and unprecedented community support make us a viable fit to continue our legacy of training the next generation of fighter pilots.”
Congressman Cliff Bentz (OR-02) released the following statement regarding the future of Kingsley Field in Klamath Falls:
“I am extremely pleased to say that I have just been informed by General David Allvin, Vice Chief of Staff of the United States Air Force, that Kingsley Field will have a next mission, and it will be training pilots to fly the F-35A Lightning II jet.
"For nearly seventy years, Kingsley’s missions have been absolutely essential to our country’s air superiority and the Klamath Falls community.
"Since day one in Congress, I have made Kingsley Field’s future missions a top priority, including securing the F-35 mission. I was very happy last year to have had an amendment included in the FY23 NDAA that requires the United States Air Force to submit public plans for the future of bases operating with the F-15 Strike Eagle, like Kingsley Field in Klamath Falls.
"The Air Force’s decision to provide Kingsley with the F-35 is great news for our country, Oregon, and Klamath Falls, and I look forward to seeing the amazing work of the 173rd Fighter Wing in continuing to train the best air-to-air combat pilots in the world.”
Kingsley Field is named after Lt. David R. Kingsley, an Oregon World War II hero killed in action in June of 1944. In 1954, the United States Air Force selected Klamath Falls for the establishment of an all-weather-fighter-interceptor-squadron and an aircraft control and warning squadron. Kingsley is now home to the 173rd Fighter Wing, which was activated on June 27, 1996.