The decision, promoted by the United States Department of the Air Force, is part of the efforts to modernize the fleet and allocate resources to the acquisition of new-generation aircraft.
The transition to the F-35A Lightning II
As part of the transition process, the Formal Training Unit at Kingsley Field in Oregon will be responsible for aircrew training for the F-35A Lightning II. This unit will be in charge of training the pilots and maintenance personnel in managing and operating the advanced fifth-generation fighters.
The decision to establish the training unit is based on the presidential budget request for fiscal year 2024, which provides for the reduction of the F-15C Eagle fleet. This measure will free up resources to boost investment in developing and producing new platforms and aircraft.
Air Fleet Update
Over the next several years, the US Air Force plans to retire a total of 310 aircraft, including F-15 Eagle, F-22 Raptor, and A-10 Thunderbolt II attack aircraft, bombers, refueling aircraft, and drones.
To compensate for these casualties, the incorporation of 95 aircraft is planned, among which are the F-35A Lightning II, F-15EX, KC-46A Pegasus and MH-39 Gray Wolf helicopters, among others.
Gradual replacement of F-15 Eagles
Kingsley Field National Guard base will receive 20 F-35A Lightning II aircraft to replace its 27 F-15C Eagles. The replacement process will begin after completing the environmental impact analysis, scheduled for 2025.
Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, North Carolina, is expected to take over basic F-15 aircrew training in early 2026 as the fleet of older F-15 Eagles of the first generations (C and D) is gradually reduced. The US Air Force will maintain F-15E Strike Eagle fighter bombers and procure at least 104 F-15EX Eagle IIs. In addition, the annual incorporation of 48 F-35A is expected until the year 2028.
Ensuring aircraft availability
The US Air Force has set a goal of adding at least 72 fighters annually for the next few fiscal years, in order to replace retired aircraft and meet operational needs.
If this goal is not reached, the service will not have enough aircraft to replace those that have been decommissioned. Being the case of the F-15C/D, for example.
The F-35A Lightning II Training Unit is a new division within the US Air Force tasked with training pilots and flight crews in handling and operating these advanced fifth-generation fighters.
The training unit will be located at the Kingsley Field Formal Training Unit in Klamath Falls, Oregon.
The primary purpose of this training unit is to ensure that pilots and flight crews acquire the necessary skills to efficiently operate the F-35A Lightning II and maximize their potential in air missions.
The creation of this training unit is part of the process to replace the aging fleet of F-15 Eagle fighters. The Air Force seeks to adapt to the new technologies and capabilities of the F-35A Lightning II and ensure an effective and successful transition.
F-35A Lightning IIs will replace F-15C Eagle fighters at Kingsley Field National Guard base.