The U.S. Air Force has deployed one squadron of F-35A Lightning II fighter aircraft, Airmen and associated equipment to Spangdahlem Air Base, from the 388th Fighter Wing and the Air Force Reserve 419th FW, at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, to participate in exercises and conduct training with other Europe-based aircraft as part of a Theater Security Package.
Funded through the European Deterrence Initiative, the TSP provides a more robust U.S. military rotational presence in the European theater capable of deterring adversaries and assuring partners and allies of the U.S. commitment to regional security.
“The entire 421st (Fighter Squadron) ops and maintenance team are extremely excited for this deployment,” said Lt. Col. Richard Orzechowski, 421st Fighter Squadron commander, as the squadron departed Hill AFB. “As the final 388th Fighter Wing squadron to transition to the F-35A, we’ve been able to leverage the experience of the 4th FS and 34th FS, and take the squadron on the road just six months after getting our first jets. We are really looking forward to continuing the cohesion built with our allies and partners. It is a real privilege to get the seasoning, training and life experiences for our 388th and 419th FW Airmen.”
The F-35s and members of the 421st and 466th FSs arrived at Aviano AB, Italy, May 23, participated in the Astral Knight exercise, and have transitioned to Spangdahlem AB for the duration of their summer-long deployment.
The 388th FW is the Air Force’s first combat-coded, or operational F-35A unit. This is their second deployment to Europe. The first was the 34th FS deployment to RAF Lakenheath, U.K., in April 2017. The 421st FS is the newest F-35A squadron and this is their first deployment with the multi-role stealth fighter.
The 421st FS is the newest fighter squadron in the Air Force to stand up the F-35A. They received their first aircraft less than six months ago. Planning and moving a dozen aircraft, hundreds of Airmen and hundreds of thousands of pounds of equipment is a testament to the drive and training of Hill AFB’s fighter wings, said Col. Michael Miles, 388th Maintenance Group commander.
“The F-35 is a challenging aircraft to pick up and move because of the amount of equipment fifth-generation maintenance requires,” Miles said. “This experience will allow our younger Airmen to see how we put a whole deployment together and will make them stronger, particularly as we move forward with combat operations in the F-35.”
F-35s, along with F-22 Raptors, are the world’s premier operational fifth-generation fighters, possessing a unique combination of stealth, speed, agility and situational awareness along with lethal long-range, air-to-air and air-to-ground weaponry, making these aircraft the best air dominance fighters in the world.
The active-duty 388th FW and Air Force Reserve 419th FW are the Air Force’s only combat-capable F-35 units, maintaining the jets in a Total Force partnership that utilizes the strengths of both components.