Hill F-35s at Lakenheath
Eight F-35A Lightning IIs operated by the 388th Fighter Wing’s 34th Fighter Squadron ‘Rams’ and the Air Force Reserve 419th Fighter Wing’s 466th Fighter Squadron at Hill AFB, Utah, deployed to RAF Lakenheath, UK, in April for the type’s first overseas training deployment to Europe.
The fighters immediately embarked on a range of training operations with other Europe-based aircraft under the European Reassurance Initiative. The F-35As also forward deployed to Estonia and Bulgaria to ‘maximize training opportunities, build partnerships with allied air forces, and become familiar with Europe’s diverse operating conditions’.
Photo: Jamie Hunter
“This is an incredible opportunity for USAFE Airmen and our NATO allies to host this first overseas training deployment of the F-35A aircraft,” said Gen Tod D. Wolters, US Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces Africa commander. “As we and our joint F-35 partners bring this aircraft into our inventories, it’s important that we train together to integrate into a seamless team capable of defending the sovereignty of allied nations. As part of the natural progression of the F-35 program, an overseas training deployment has been part of the Air Force’s plan since the F-35A was declared combat capable last year.”
“RAF Lakenheath will be the first overseas beddown location for the F-35A,” he added, “this deployment allows our pilots and maintainers to learn more about the European operating environment and will improve our interoperability with partners in the region.”