F-35 Deployment Returns Home
Last week, the first wave of aircraft and personnel from the 388th and 419th Fighter Wings returned home after a six-month deployment in the Middle East. The squadron was the first F-35 Immediate Response Force deployment, as well as part of the second USAF F-35A Lightning II combat deployment.
During their deployment, the Airmen performed close air support, offensive and defensive counter-air and maritime escort, which enabled regional deterrence. Also, the squadron operated simultaneously from two different bases for more than three months and participated in multi-national exercises, strengthening partnerships with regional allies.
The returning Airmen will quarantine for 14 days as a precaution to stop the spread of the coronavirus. “It’s always great to see our people come home from deployment after a job well done,” said Col. Brian Silkey, acting commander of the 419th Fighter Wing. “I want to extend my sincere gratitude to all the family members who held things together here at home during this difficult time for our nation.”
Last April was the first time Hill Air Force Base deployed to the Middle East with the F-35. Initially, it was a six-month deployment. However, our customer realized, “We can’t live without the F-35,” and pushed up the second operational mission six months ahead of schedule. The 34th Fighter Squadron quickly replaced the 4th Fighter Squadron to keep the F-35 presence in the Middle East.
Fast forward to today, the F-35s have conducted missions 24/7 for over a year. Through holidays, challenging environments and currently, amidst COVID-19, an F-35 always safeguards the sky. Today, another group of Airmen remains in the region to support missions.
While deployed, the 34thhas conducted over 1,439 sorties, flown 7,311.4 flight hours and maintained 79% mission-capable rates. These numbers show the F-35s ability to deliver rapid readiness and capabilities our customers count on.