Nine Gray Eagle combat unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), along with 128 personnel and their families, have been assigned to Fort Wainwright starting next month, Alaska’s congressional delegation announced last week.
The aircraft will use existing hangars initially, but the Army plans to request funding for additional UAV facilities at the Fairbanks-area post in the fiscal 2017 budget, according to a joint press release from the lawmakers.
“Alaska is the tip of the spear when it comes to the Pentagon’s strategic shift to the Asia-Pacific, but the Pentagon clearly sees it as a superior choice to also respond to increasing military activities in the Arctic region,” said Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R).
The new mission marks the latest in a series of expansions at Alaska installations that have come amid budget constraints throughout DOD, reported the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner. This spring the Army announced Fort Wainwright will receive new Apache helicopters to replace old Kiowa Warriors. Nearby Eielson Air Force Base is the favored option for the placement of 48 F-35 Joint Strike Fighter aircraft, which would bring 3,000 additional airmen to the state.
“It was not too long ago that the Department of Defense was taking a closer look at its investment and presence in Alaska; it’s now evident that officials came away from examining Alaska extremely impressed and convinced that we are the optimal location and community for men and women in uniform,” Murkowski stated.