US AIR Force F-35A Lightning IIs and airmen from the 388th and 419th Fighter Wings at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, have deployed to Al Dhafra Air Base in the United Arab Emirates to support the United States Air Force Central Command (CENTCOM) mission in the Middle East. An initial six F-35As (15-5184 ‘HL’/‘4th FS’, 15-5197 ‘HL’, 15-5196 ‘HL’, 15-5192 ‘HL’, 15-5194 ‘HL’/‘419th FW’ and 15-5187 ‘HL’, callsigns Trend 41-46 respectively) arrived at Morón Air Base, Spain, from Hill on April 12. They continued their journey to Al Dhafra on April 15, arriving there later that same day.
Four more aircraft (15-5180 ‘HL’, 15-5181 ‘HL’, 15-5163 ‘HL’ and 15-5176 ‘HL’, callsigns Trend 51-54 respectively) arrived at Morón on April 15 before also continuing on to Al Dhafra. This marks the first deployment by the F-35A to the CENTCOM area of responsibility and its first ever operational deployment. The aircraft will support the 380th Air Expeditionary Wing and Operation Inherent Resolve.
The deployment is made up of pilots from the active duty 388th FW’s 4th Fighter Squadron and Reserve 419th FW’s 466th Fighter Squadron, as well as active duty and Reserve Airmen in the 4th Aircraft Maintenance Unit, plus personnel in other support functions. Lt Gen Joseph Guastella, commander of Air Forces Central Command, said: “We are adding a cutting-edge weapons system to our arsenal that significantly enhances the capability of the coalition. The sensor fusion and survivability this aircraft provides to the joint force will enhance security and stability across the theatre and deter aggression. We look forward to demonstrating the full range of the F-35A’s capabilities while it increases the interoperability of our forces throughout the region.”