F-35 Mediterranean

U.S. Air Force F-35A Lightning IIs from Hill Air Force Base fly over an undisclosed location over the Mediterranean Sea, June 25, 2019. 

HILL AIR FORCE BASE — Troops and jets from Hill Air Force Base recently took to the sky with a pair of the United States’ most well-known allies.

According to the U.S. Air Forces Central Command Public Affairs office, members of Hill’s 388th Fighter Wing flew their F-35 Lightning IIs with counterparts from the United Kingdom and Israel during “Exercise Tri-Lightning” on June 25.

The one-day exercise, which took place over the eastern Mediterranean Sea, involved mock “friendly” and “adversary” aircraft from the three countries, consisting of air defense operations. A variety of other aircraft played the aggressors during the exercise, simulating combat scenarios between the high-tech F-35s and older fighter planes from previous generations.

Hill’s team flew into the exercise from their temporary home at Al Dhafra Air Base in the United Arab Emirates. The group is supporting the Central Command’s mission in the Middle East. The collection includes pilots from Hill’s 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.

According to the Cent-Com public affairs office, the UK’s Royal Air Force F-35Bs joined the exercise from a base at Akrotiri, Cyprus, while the Israeli Air Force flew from Nevatim Air Base in Israel.

In a press release from the command, Commander Lt. Gen. Joseph Guastella said the transatlantic relationship between the U.S. and the two allies has “been forged over the past seven decades and is built on a foundation of shared values, experience and vision.”

For the 388th and it’s reserve counterpart 419th Fighter Wing, the deployment at Al Dhafra has been eventful.

The deployment marks the first time an F-35 has headed into an active combat zone in the Middle East. On April 30, a pair of Hill F-35s conducted an air strike at Wadi Ashai, Iraq, in support of the Combined Joint Task Force’s Operation Inherent Resolve mission. The jets hit a long-established ISIS tunnel network and weapons cache in a remote area of the Hamrin Mountains. The mission represented the F-35’s first live combat strike.

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