The Air Force’s F-35 operating base on Jan. 6 conducted a massive elephant walk, launching 52 jets in a row.
The Active Duty 388th and Reserve 419th Fighter Wings conducted the Combat Power Exercise to demonstrate “their ability to employ a large force of F-35As” and test the wing’s readiness for personnel accountability, aircraft generation, ground operations, flight operations, and combat capability, according to a Hill statement. The exercise had been planned for months, the base said.
Launching 52 jets simultaneously shows an improved readiness rate in the fleet, which had been lagging for years. As of October 2019, the Air Force’s F-35A fleet had a mission capable rate of 75 percent, up from the 66 percent rate in October 2018, Ellen Lord, the undersecretary of defense for acquisition, told lawmakers in the fall.
Hill in mid-December received its 78th and final F-35, more than four years since the first Lightning II arrived at the Utah base. Since the first arrival, Hill has completed more than 33,000 flying hours in 17,500 sorties, according to a release.
The base hosts four F-35 squadrons, with the Active Duty 4th, 34th, and 421st Fighter Squadrons and the Reserve’s 466th Fighter Squadron. Members and jets from these units are currently deployed to the Middle East, and rotated through Europe through the summer of 2019.