Hill AFB F-35 Crews Return Home After First Combat Deployment

Airmen from Hill AFB, Utah, recently completed their first six-month combat deployment with the F-35.

On Nov. 1, airmen from the 388th and 419th Fighter Wings returned home to Hill after moving to Al Dhafra AB, United Arab Emirates. Joint Strike Fighters and airmen deployed in April for close air support missions to counter the Islamic State group as part of Operation Inherent Resolve, along with “regional deterrence against aggressors,” according to a Nov. 4 Hill release.

The jets also participated in multinational exercises, such as when they flew alongside United Kingdom Royal Air Force and Israeli F-35s in Exercise Tri-Lightning.

“We showed that we deserved a seat at the table just like any other fighter,” Lt. Col. Joshua Arki, 4th Fighter Squadron commander, said in the release. “We demonstrated to our friends and enemies that the F-35A is ready for any of the missions we may be called upon. We can hold any conflict in any theater at bay.”

The deployment was a combined team of pilots from both the Active-Duty 4th FS and Reserve 466th Fighter Squadron, along with airmen from the 4th and 466th Aircraft Maintenance Units.

Their participation “significantly enhances the capability of the coalition,” Air Forces Central Command boss Lt. Gen. Joseph Guastella said in April, adding that the F-35’s advanced technology “will enhance security and stability across the theater.”

The deployment marked the second time F-35s went into combat, following a Marine Corps F-35B visit to US Central Command in 2018.

Neither the Air Force or CENTCOM have announced a new deployment of fifth-generation aircraft or aircrews to the region. F-15Es from RAF Lakenheath, England, deployed to Al Dhafra in mid-October.