The USAF has deployed F-35A Lightning IIs from the 388th and 419th Fighter Wings (FW) based at Hill AFB in Utah, to Al Dhafra AB in the UAE, the first operational deployment of the F-35A in the region.
The F-35A deployment relieves a squadron of F-22As from the 1st FW that had previously been operating in the air combat and ISR roles from Al Dhafra. The USMC has previously deployed F-35Bs to the region aboard the amphibious carrier USS Essex, while the USAF has previously conducted operational F-35A deployments to Europe and to Japan.
“We are adding a cutting-edge weapons system to our arsenal that significantly enhances the capability of the coalition,” LtGen Joseph Guastella, commander of AFCENT said in a release. “The sensor fusion and survivability this aircraft provides to the joint force will enhance security and stability across the theatre and deter aggressors.”
USAF Chief of Staff Gen David Goldfein added, “The F-35A provides our nation air dominance in any threat. When it comes to having a ‘quarterback’ for the coalition joint force, the interoperable F-35A is clearly the aircraft for the leadership role.”
The pilots deployed with the F-35As had recently participated in Exercise Red Flag 19-1 at Nellis AFB, billed as the most realistic air combat exercise in the world, alongside aircraft and crews from the RAAF and the UK’s RAF.