June 29 (UPI) -- The first bombs built specifically for F-35A fighter planes were made earlier this month at Eielson Air Base, Alaska, the Air Force announced on Monday.
About 70 bombs were constructed, using an assembly line process, by the munitions personnel of the base's 354th Fighter Wing Maintenance Squadron between June 15 and June 19.
It had been about 10 years since combat-specific bombs, for A-10 Thunderbolt and F-16 Fighting Falcons, were built at the base, officials said.
The process involved receiving, transporting and storing of the bomb's material, known as "barging," followed by bomb assembly, in which a guidance and control unit, a tail kit and a fuse are installed onto a basic bomb body.
"It is very rewarding to be a part of making history," A1C Daelyn Mayer, a 354th MXS conventional maintenance inspector, said in a press release. "I think it's awesome to get to say we built the first bombs for the F-35s that are here at Eielson."
The base, near Fairbanks, houses a growing number of F-35A Lightning II planes and is assigned to the Eleventh Air Force of the Pacific Air Forces.
The importance of the F-35 squadron there has been magnified following the proposed funding of the Pacific Deterrence Initiative, a new military fund to boost deterrence against China in the Pacific Ocean area.
The Senate Armed Services Committee approved nearly $6 billion for the fund on June 11 in its version of the annual defense bill. It calls for $1.4 billion in fiscal 2021 and $5.5 billion for fiscal 2022. The bill also directs the defense secretary to create a spending plan for all of the funds.
The committee recommended a total of $7 billion, over two years, to support INDOPACOM, the largest combatant command in the U.S.military, to counter the militaries of China and Russia in the Indo-Pacific region.
"It doesn't matter how many F-35s the military buys if very few are stationed in the region, their primary bases have little defense against Chinese missiles, they don't have secondary airfields to operate from, they can't access prepositioned stocks of fuel and munitions, or they can't be repaired in theater and get back in the fight when it counts," said Rep. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., the committee chairman.
"The Pacific Deterrence Initiative will incentivize increased focus on posture and logistics, and help measure whether these requirements are being matched with resources," Inhofe said.