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For third time, Hill AFB fighter wings deploy F-35As to Middle East

F-35 II Lighting Fighter Squadrons deploy from Hill AFB, Utah, to Al Dhafra Air Base, United Arab Emirtates

F-35A Lightning II's await to taxi at Hill Air Force Bsse, Utah, May 20, 2020. Airmen from the 388th and 419th Fighter Wings have deployed F-35As into combat three times in 12 months. The group of deployed Airmen is made up of pilots from the 421st Fighter Squadron and the Reserve 466th Fighter Squadron, as well as active duty and Reserve Airmen from the 421st Aircraft Maintenance Unit. (U.S. Air Force photo by R. Nial Bradshaw)

F-35 II Lighting Fighter Squadrons deploy from Hill AFB, Utah, to Al Dhafra Air Base, United Arab Emirtates

Deploying pilots with the 388th and 419th Fighter Wings prepare for launch at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, May 20, 2020. Airmen from the 388th and 419th Fighter Wings have deployed F-35As into combat three times in 12 months. The group of deployed Airmen is made of pilots from the 421st Fighter Squadron and the Reserve 466th Fighter Squadron, as well as active duty and Reserve Airmen from the 421st Aircraft Maintenance Unit. (U.S. Air Force photo by R. Nial Bradshaw)

A photo of the 421st Fighter Squadron deployment to the Middle East.

An F-35A Lightning II taxis at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, May 20, 2020. Airmen from the 388th and 419th Fighter Wings have deployed F-35As into combat three times in 12 months. The group of deployed Airmen is made up of pilots from the 421st Fighter Squadron and Reserve 466th Fighter Squadron, as well as active duty and Reserve Airmen from the 421st Aircraft Maintenance Unit. (U.S. Air Force photo by R. Nial Bradshaw)

A photo of the 421st Fighter Squadron deployment to the Middle East.

A maintainer prepares to launch an F-35A Lighting II at HIll Air Force Base, Utah, May 20, 2020. Airmen from the 388th and 419th Fighter Wings have deployed F-35As into combat three times in 12 months. The group of deployed Airmen is made of pilots from the 421st Fighter Squadron and the Reserve 466th Fighter Squadron, as well as active duty and Reserve Airmen from the 421st Aircraft Maintenance Unit. (U.S. Air Force photo by R. Nial Bradshaw)

F-35 arrival ADAB

F-35 Lightning II aircraft from the 421st Fighter Squadron, Hill Air Force Base, Utah, arrive at Al Dhafra Air Base, United Arab Emirates, May 30, 2020. Their mission is to support and deploy the F-35 and to continue the 380th Air Expeditionary Wing's capabilities of delivering combat airpower, defending the region, and developing relations with regional partners.(U.S. Air Force photo by Maj. Rodney Ellison)

HILL AIR FORCE BASE, Utah (AFNS) --

For the third time in approximately 12 months, Airmen from the 388th and 419th Fighter Wings at Hill Air Force Base deployed F-35A Lighting IIs into combat.

The 421st Fighter Squadron departed Hill AFB recently for Al Dhafra Air Base, United Arab Emirates, to support the United States Air Force Central Command mission in the region. 

“The 421st Fighter Squadron completed their stand up in December and now they’re our latest squadron heading into the fight,” said Col. Steven Behmer, 388th Fighter Wing commander. “This demonstrates the readiness of our Airmen, our weapons system, and the importance of both the Air Force and our national defense mission. On top of that, add in prepping and training in this challenging coronavirus environment. As leaders, we couldn’t be more proud of our Airmen.”  

The deployed squadron is made up of pilots and maintainers from the active duty 421st and Reserve 466th Fighter Squadrons and aircraft maintenance units as well as personnel in other support functions.

Three weeks ago, an initial wave of active and Reserve Airmen who were deployed with the 34th Fighter Squadron returned to Hill AFB following a six-month deployment to the Middle East. A large contingent from the 34th FS remain in the region and will return home soon.

During the deployment, the 34th FS performed close air support, offensive and defensive counter-air, and maritime escort which enabled regional deterrence. They also operated simultaneously from two different bases for more than three months and participated in multinational exercises, strengthening partnerships with regional allies. The 421st Fighter Squadron will likely take on a similar role.

“I’m extremely proud of our personnel for answering their nation’s call once again, and I’m certain they’ll do an exceptional job,” said Col. Brian Silkey, acting commander for the 419th Fighter Wing. “As always, we truly appreciate the sacrifices of their families and civilian employers as our Citizen Airmen step away to serve, especially now, during these challenging and uncertain times.”

The F-35A, the conventional takeoff and landing variant of the Joint Strike Fighter, provides greater operational capability by combining advanced stealth capabilities with the latest weapons technology.

The 388th and 419th are the Air Force first combat-capable F-35A units. The first operational F-35As arrived at Hill AFB in October 2015. The active duty 388th FW and Air Force Reserve 419th FW fly and maintain the jet in a total force partnership, which capitalizes on the strength of both components. Hill AFB is home to 78 F-35s.

 

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