The Navy will base a total of 100 F-35C fighter jets at Naval Air Station Lemoore in central California, according to a record of decision officials announced Thursday.
Local leaders cheered the decision, which had been expected since earlier this year, as it will expand the scope of the base’s existing mission, reported The Fresno Bee. The fifth-generation fighters will replace 70 aging F/A-18 Hornets now based at Lemoore. The number of aircraft based there may not reach 100 until 2028, however.
Lemoore will receive 70 jets to be placed with seven Pacific Fleet squadrons and 30 jets for a fleet replacement squadron used to train pilots and maintenance crews. The air station had 100 aircraft until last year when its fleet replacement squadron was disbanded.
Basing the F-35C fleet at Lemoore is estimated to require 750 new military and contractor personnel for mission support.
“I’m elated,” John Lehn, president of the Kings County Economic Development Corp., told the paper. “We aren’t surprised, but it’s nice to get the nod.”
The decision means that Lemoore will remain a reliable economic anchor “for the foreseeable future,” Lehn said.
Separately, about 550 military personnel will be coming to Lemoore as the Navy relocates two F/A-18 Super Hornet squadrons from NAS Oceana in Virginia Beach in two years, according to the story.