Above: US Air Force F-35A 17-5265 ‘VT’/‘158 FW’ takes-off for its maiden flight at Fort Worth, Texas, on July 31. The aircraft is the first for the Vermont Air National Guard, which will be the first ANG unit to re-equip with the type. USAF/158th FW
LOCKHEED MARTIN has flown the first F-35A Lightning II destined for delivery to the Air National Guard. The aircraft, 17-5265 ‘VT’/‘158 FW’, made its maiden flight at Fort Worth, Texas, on July 31 and will be delivered to the Vermont ANG’s 158th Fighter Wing/134th Fighter Squadron ‘Green Mountain Boys’ at Burlington International Airport in September. An official arrival ceremony will take place in October. A total of 20 F-35As will join the unit, comprising 18 primary aircraft and two spares, all of which will be delivered by the end of 2020.
The unit previously flew the F-16A/B Fighting Falcon but gave up its final F-16 on April 6, after 33 years of operations with the type. The unit is currently hard at work preparing for introduction of the type and is spending $117 million on upgrades to make preparations for its operation from Burlington, work which should be completed by next summer. Nine of the unit’s pilots have qualified or are in the process of completing training on the F-35, with another six due for training before the year-end.