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Alaska's congressional delegation urged the Air Force leadership to station F-35s at Eielson Air Force Base near Fairbanks. "The military value of Eielson is ever increasing with its unique geographic location, close proximity to the Joint Pacific Alaska Range Complex, and capability to project power in the Pacific theater of operations while on home soil," wrote Sen. Mark Begich (D), Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R), and Rep. Don Young (R) in an Oct. 15 letter to Acting Air Force Secretary Eric Fanning and Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh. These strengths, coupled with factors like available infrastructure, "make Eielson a clear choice to base the F-35" in the Asia-Pacific theater, wrote the lawmakers. The Air Force recently finalized the criteria it will use to select the candidate bases in the region. The lawmakers said the Air Force is expected to decide on the initial candidate sites in late November and then announce the preferred locations and reasonable alternative bases in February. They also noted that Eielson's staying-put F-16 aggressor airplanes would serve as a "critical training asset" for the first F-35 combat squadron in the region. (See also lawmakers' release.)