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First operational F-35A squadron receives final aircraft

Airman 1st Class Matthew Clark with the 34th Aircraft Maintenance Unit directs the pilot who flew the 388th Fighter Wing’s 24th aircraft assigned to the 34th Fighter Squadron / 34th AMU June 21. The 24th aircraft is significant because it completes the first full F-35A squadron at an operational unit. (U.S. Air Force photo/Donovan K Potter)

Airman 1st Class Matthew Clark, a 34th Aircraft Maintenance Unit Airman, marshals the newest F-35A Lightning II aircraft June 21, 2017, at Hill Air Force Base, Utah. This aircraft signifies the completion of the first full F-35A squadron at an operational unit. (U.S. Air Force photo/Donovan K Potter)

HILL AIR FORCE BASE, Utah (AFNS) -- The 34th Fighter Squadron and 34th Aircraft Maintenance Unit at Hill Air Force Base accepted its final two combat-coded F-35A Lightning lls June 21, 2017.

The addition of the 24th and final aircraft means the units have their full component of operational jets.

“Gaining the 24th F-35A here is another outstanding milestone for the 388th and 419th wings,” said Col. Jason Rueschhoff, the 388th Operations Group commander. “This allows both operations and maintenance to fine-tune our tactics, techniques and procedures with a focus on maximizing our combat lethality.”

This is a pivotal point for combat-capability development said Col. Michael Miles, the 388th Maintenance Group commander.

"Having the full number of aircraft in one FS/AMU means we'll soon receive our full personnel and equipment,” Miles said. “This allows us to meet all potential combat taskings."

The 388th Fighter Wing received its first F-35A in November 2015. Since that time, the unit has developed the best tactics, techniques and procedures, shaping how the F-35A operates in the Air Force, said Capt. Christina Merritt, the 34th AMU officer in charge.

Merritt said receiving the 24th aircraft pushes the threshold and helps Airmen further test the limits of the F-35A.

The 4th FS and 4th AMU are expected to receive the next F-35A this summer. A total of 78 jets will be delivered to two additional F-35A squadrons in the 388th FW through 2019. 

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