Hill f-35 Mid East deploy

Sometime in mid-April, a pilot with the 388th Fighter Wing prepares to taxi prior to launching on the F-35As first deployment to the Middle East. (United States Air Force photo by R. Nial Bradshaw)

HILL AIR FORCE BASE — F-35s from Hill Air Force Base have conducted combat strikes on enemy forces for the first time.

According to a press release from the base, a pair of F-35As deployed with Hill's active duty 388th and reserve 419th fighter wings, conducted an air strike April 30 at Wadi Ashai, Iraq, in support of the Combined Joint Task Force's Operation Inherent Resolve mission.

The jets conducted the airstrike using a "Joint Direct Attack Munition," hitting a long-established Daesh tunnel network and weapons cache in a remote area of the Hamrin Mountains. According to Boeing, JDAM is a low-cost guidance kit that converts existing unguided free-fall bombs into accurately guided, precision "smart" weapons.

Personnel from Hill are currently stationed at Al Dhafra Air Base, United Arab Emirates, to support the United States Air Force Central Command mission in the Middle East.

The collection includes pilots from the active duty 4th Fighter Squadron and Reserve 466th Fighter Squadron, as well as active duty and reserve airmen in the 4th Aircraft Maintenance Unit, as well as personnel in other support functions. The group arrived at Al Dhafra in mid-April, but the Air Force has not disclosed when they are scheduled to return home.

F-35As from Hill have previously deployed to Royal Air Force Lakenheath in April 2017, as well as Kadena Air Base, Japan in the fall of 2017. In February, a group of 12 F-35s and maintainers, intelligence officers, weapons crews and support personnel from Hill completed three-week combat exercise known as “Red Flag” — an exercise meant to replicate a battle against near-equal enemies during a large-scale conflict.

Pilots from Hill have also conducted numerous other training missions, including flying in and out of the Utah Test and Training Range in Utah's west desert, but Hill spokesman Micah Garbarino said Tuesday's strike marked the F-35A Lightning IIs first real-world combat mission.

You can reach reporter Mitch Shaw at mishaw@standard.net. Follow him on Twitter at @mitchshaw23.

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