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Hill AFB fighter wings bring first F-35A to Red Flag

F-35A Lightning IIs piloted by the 388th and 419th Fighter Wings prepare to depart Hill AFB, Utah, Jan. 20 for Nellis AFB, Nev., to participate in a Red Flag exercise. Red Flag is the U.S. Air Force’s premier air-to-air combat training exercise.This is the first deployment to Red Flag since the Air Force declared the jet combat ready in August 2016. (U.S. Air Force photo/R. Nial Bradshaw)

F-35A Lightning IIs piloted by the 388th and 419th Fighter Wings prepare to depart Hill Air Force Base, Utah, Jan. 20, 2017for Nellis AFB, Nev., to participate in exercise Red Flag. Red Flag is the Air Force’s premier air-to-air combat training exercise. This is the first deployment to Red Flag since the Air Force declared the jet combat ready in August 2016. (U.S. Air Force photo/R. Nial Bradshaw)

HILL AIR FORCE BASE, Utah (AFNS) -- Pilots and maintainers from the 388th and 419th Fighter Wings deployed the F-35A Lightning II to Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, Jan. 20, 2017 for exercise Red Flag.

This is the first deployment to Red Flag for the F-35A and the first large movement since the Air Force declared the jet combat ready in August 2016.

Red Flag is the Air Force's premier air-to-air combat training exercise. Participants include both U.S. and allied nations' combat air forces. The exercise provides aircrews the experience of multiple, intensive air combat sorties in the safety of a training environment.

“Our Airmen are excited to bring the F-35 to a full-spectrum combat exercise,” said Col. David Lyons, the 388th FW commander. “This battle space is going to be a great place to leverage our stealth and interoperability. It’s a lethal platform and I’m confident we will prove to be an invaluable asset to the commander.”

The jets will be at Red Flag through Feb. 10. While deployed, the F-35 will fly alongside fourth-and-fifth generation platforms and provide offensive and defensive counter air, suppression of enemy air defenses, and limited close air support.

“Red Flag is hands-down the best training in the world to ensure our Airmen are fully mission ready,” said Col. David Smith, the 419th FW commander. “It’s as close to combat operations as you can get. Our Reserve pilots and maintainers are looking forward to putting the F-35A weapon system to the test alongside our active duty partners to bring an unprecedented combat capability.”

The F-35A is a fifth-generation, multi-role stealth fighter designed to gather, fuse and distribute more information than any other fighter in history.

The first operational F-35As arrived at Hill AFB in October 2015. The base will eventually be home to three operational F-35 fighter squadrons with a total of 78 aircraft by the end of 2019. The active duty 388th FW and Air Force Reserve 419th FW will fly and maintain the Air Force’s newest fighter aircraft in a Total Force partnership, which capitalizes on the strength of both components.

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