F-35 training exercise deemed successful, Hill AFB officials say

Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

FILE— An F-35A fighter jets sits at Hill Air Force Base as Col. Dave Smith, commander of the 419th Fighter Wing, talks on Monday, April 17, 2017, about the jets making their first overseas training deployment to Europe as part a joint air training exercise over the next several weeks.

SALT LAKE CITY — The U.S. military’s top combat fighter jet passed its first transatlantic training exercise with flying colors, according to officials at Hill Air Force Base.

F-35 fighters from the 34th Fighter Squadron, 388th Fighter Wing and the Air Force Reserve’s 466th Fighter Squadron, 419th Fighter Wing recently participated in joint air training with other Europe-based aircraft in support of the European Reassurance Initiative.

“We did a fair amount of air-to-air work, focusing a lot on familiarization of fighter integration, tactics, techniques and procedures,” 388th Fighter Wing commander Col. David Lyons said Wednesday. “We didn’t have any major hiccups.”

Hill Air Force Base is home to the Air Force’s first operational (combat-coded) F-35A unit. F-35A aircraft at Hill are flown and maintained by a team of active duty and reserve airmen from the 388th and 419th fighter wings. The units recently completed the F-35A’s first overseas deployment to Royal Air Force Lakenheath, England for the exercise called “Iron Hand.”

Overseas training deployment has been part of the Air Force’s plan since the F-35A was declared combat ready last year as part of the natural progression of the jet’s development program.

“It’s a major stepping stone in our run up to our first time taking these jets into a real combat scenario,” Lyons said. “While we work up to the point where we’re deployed to combat, we’re hitting these major milestones along the way.”

The training deployment was an effort to maximize training opportunities with other NATO nations, build partnerships with allied air forces and gain a broad familiarity of Europe’s diverse operating conditions, he said. The introduction of the U.S. military’s premier fifth-generation fighter to the European theater furthers efforts to use enhanced technology…

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