Hill F-35 in Europe

An F-35A Lightning II fighter jet sits on the flightline while another F-35A takes off during a security exercise, June 3, 2019, at Aviano Air Base, Italy. 

HILL AIR FORCE BASE — Crews from Hill Air Force Base’s two fighter wings have finished a key component of their European security deployment.

In an email, Hill spokesman Micah Garbarino said Hill airmen recently finished an air-and-missile defense exercise called “Astral Knight.” The multinational exercise involved defending several areas of terrain from cruise missile and aircraft strikes, Garbarino said.

U.S. military members worked with coalition forces from Croatia, Italy and Slovenia at various locations across Europe during the four day exercise, which took place from June 3-6.

Garbarino said the exercises marked the first time U.S. Air Force F-35As flew with their Italian Air Force F-35 counterparts. The two outfits communicated with each other through the “Multifunction Advanced Data Link,” a system unique to the F-35.

Hill’s F-35As also flew alongside U.S. Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcons, KC-135 Stratotankers, E-3 Sentry Airborne Warning and Control aircraft and B-52s, Garbarino said. They also flew with coalition Eurofighter Typhoons and Mig 21s.

In May, one squadron of F-35As, airmen and other equipment from Hill’s 388th and 419th fighter wings deployed to Aviano Air Base in Italy. The group is participating in exercises and complete training with other European aircraft as part of a “Theater Security Package.”

In a previous press release, Garbarino said the mission is funded through the European Deterrence Initiative and “provides a more robust U.S. military ... presence in the European theater, capable of deterring adversaries and assuring partners and allies of U.S. commitment to regional security.”

The F-35s and members of the 421st and 466th Fighter Squadrons arrived at Aviano on May 24 and will remain in Europe for several weeks. The group will transition to other locations throughout the summer as part of the deployment.

A group of Hill F-35s and airmen are also stationed at Al Dhafra Air Base in the United Arab Emirates, to support the United States Air Force Central Command mission in the Middle East. The mission marks the F-35s’ first ever deployment to the Middle East.

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