May 8, 2017 (by SrA Malcolm Mayfield) - Eight F-35A Lightning IIs from the 34th Fighter Squadron, along with supporting units and equipment from Hill Air Force Base, Utah, completed the first F-35A training deployment to Europe, May 7, 2017.
An F-35A pilot from the 34th FS, assigned to Hill AFB, completes pre-flight checks prior to departing RAF Lakenheath on May 7th, 2017. Eight F-35A aircraft from the squadron, along with supporting units and equipment from Hill AFB, completed the first F-35A training deployment to Europe. [USAF photo by MSgt. Eric Burks]
While at Royal Air Force Lakenheath, the squadron flew 76 sorties and tallied more than 154 flying hours alongside F-15s from the 48th Fighter Wing.
"This exercise provided our pilots with the opportunity to practice working together to solve complex tactical scenarios using integrated operations that optimized both the F-35 and F-15's capabilities,” said Lt. Col. Jason Zumwalt, the 493rd Fighter Squadron commander. “We found that by working together, we can achieve a higher level of performance than either aircraft can achieve alone."
During the training deployment, the aircraft forward deployed to Estonia and Bulgaria to maximize training opportunities, build partnerships with allied air forces and familiarize Airmen with Europe’s broad and diverse operating conditions.
"This deployment was a great opportunity for the 34th (FS
) and the 48th (FW) to practice 4th and 5th generation fighter integration tactics,” Zumwalt said. “It was an honor to host the 34th (FS) at RAF Lakenheath, where we were able to integrate our operations in a shared workspace."
This training deployment highlighted the complementary capabilities of these different aircraft. It also assisted in validating and refining the bed-down procedures of the fifth generation, multi-role fighter aircraft in England. RAF Lakenheath is scheduled to receive its first permanent F-35A Lightning IIs in 2021.