US Air Force’s F-35A fighters head off to war for the first time as stealth jets join coalition air strikes against Islamic State in the Middle East
- Six F-35As took off from their home station at Hill Air Force Base in Utah Friday
- They arrived at the Al Dhafra Air Base in the United Arab Emirates on Monday
- The jets will participate in coalition air operations targeting ISIS militants
- The F-35A model is billed as the most advanced military aircraft ever deployed
The US Air Force has deployed its brand new F-35A stealth fighter jets to the Middle East for the first time ever.
At least six F-35As from the 388th and 419th Fighter Wings took off from their home station at Hill Air Force Base in Utah last Friday.
They arrived at the Al Dhafra Air Base in the United Arab Emirates on Monday, where they will participate in coalition air operations targeting Islamic State militants, USAF Central Command announced in a press release.
‘For those of us who have been a part of the F-35 (Lightning II) program for a while, this is a huge milestone,’ Col Lee Kloos, 388th FW commander, told a group of Airmen ahead of the launch last week.
‘You’re the first. We’re proud of you and we’ll be watching you as you bring this jet’s capabilities to bear in support of our nation’s defense.’
The US has deployed brand new F-35A stealth fighter jets to the Middle East for the first time. One of the six jets is seen arriving at Al Dhafra Air Base in United Arab Emirates on Monday
Six F-35As from the 388th and 419th Fighter Wings took off from Hill Air Force Base in Utah on Friday. Members of Al Dhafra Air Base are seen welcoming the airmen on Monday
The new model is billed as the most advanced military aircraft ever sent into the skies.
Thanks to ‘one of the most powerful and comprehensive integrated sensor packages’, the jet ‘improves lethality, survivability and adaptability against emerging threats in order to maintain air superiority’, according to the press release.
USAFCC Commander Lt Gen Joseph T Guastella said: ‘We are adding a cutting edge weapons system to our arsenal that significantly enhances the capability of the coalition.
Air Force Chief of Staff Gen David L. Goldfein added: ‘The F-35A provides our nation air dominance in any threat. When it comes to having a ‘quarterback’ for the coalition joint force, the inter-operable F-35A is clearly the aircraft for the leadership role.’
The new F-35A model is billed as the most superior military aircraft ever sent into the skies
The F-35A is the conventional takeoff and landing variant version of the jet, and the first of the three versions to enter full service.
The F-35B, which is capable of vertical take-off and landing, only recently entered service, and the F-35C, specializing in aircraft carrier operations, has consistently fallen behind in testing.
The F35A previously deployed to the United Kingdom’s Royal Air Force Lakenheath in April 2017, as well as the US Pacific Command area of responsibility in Japan in the fall of 2017.
While these are the first US Air Force-operated F35As to enter to Middle East, they aren’t new to the region as Israel is already operating 12 of the jets.
‘We look forward to demonstrating the full range of the F-35A’s capabilities while it increases the interoperability of our forces throughout the region,’ Guastella said.
The jets were deployed to United Arab Emirates to participate in coalition air operations targeting Islamic State militants in the Middle East