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Plans for pilot training center in Fort Smith move forward

The airbase will be the future home of F-35 fighter planes and a Republic of Singapore F-16 squadron.

FORT SMITH, Ark. — Fort Smith city leaders approved an ordinance and resolution supporting plans to convert the 188th Air National Guard Wing into a pilot training facility during a city director meeting Tuesday, Feb. 15, night. 

The airbase will be the future home of F-35 fighter planes and a Republic of Singapore F-16 squadron.

During the meeting, Fort Smith City Director Neal Martin said that it's one of the biggest things to happen to the Fort Smith economy in a long, long time. 

" I want everyone to hear this - this project, this project that we're talking about here, is going to have an economic impact up to a billion dollars a year - not million, not 200 million, a billion dollars a year. These are projects we haven't seen here in Fort Smith, so we're excited. This is equivalent to a super-project."

Once the conversion is complete, close to 900 new jobs will be created. Best estimates indicate that crews will complete the conversion sometime in 2023.

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