LAYTON, Utah (ABC4 News) – F-35A fighter jets from Hill Air Force Base 388th and 419th fighter wings deployed to the Middle East.
The Airmen arrived at the Al Dhafra Air Base, United Arab Emirates, to support the United States Air Force Central Command mission in the Middle East on Wednesday.
The versatile aircraft known for its ability to “quarterback” will support operations against both the Taliban and IS.
Marking the first time the stealth fighter has been in the war zone, 388th FW commander, Col. Lee Kloos said they have been working toward this since they received the first jets in 2015.
“We have been successful in two Red Flags, we’ve deployed to Europe and to Asia. Our Airmen are ready for this mission,” Kloos said. “For those of us who have been a part of the F-35 program for a while, this is a huge milestone.”
The F-35A, the conventional takeoff and landing variant of the Joint Strike Fighter, provides greater operational capability by combining advanced stealth capabilities with the latest weapons technology.
“You’re the first,” Kloos told a group of airmen gathered in Hill’s Deployment Control Center. “We’re proud of you and we’ll be watching you as you bring this jet’s capabilities to bear in support of our nation’s defense.”
The team from Utah is expected to help maintain air dominance in the area.
Staff Sgt. Riley Curry said getting ready for the deployment was the hard part, but carrying out the mission is second nature.
“It’s neat to be on our first deployment and part of the first operational F-35A deployment, but we’re going out to do our job – the same one we do here every day,” said Curry, a munitions controller with the 388th Maintenance Squadron.
The first operational F-35As arrived at Hill in October 2015. The primary mission of the 388th Fighter Wing is to rapidly employ combat power with the F-35A Lightning II aircraft worldwide in support of the national defense.
There are approximately 1,800 airmen and civilian professionals assigned to the 388th FW.