Air Force’s F-35A Lightning II arrives for first Middle East deployment

Photos by Staff Sgt. Chris Thornbury

AL DHAFRA AIR BASE, United Arab Emirates – The Air Force’s fifth generation multi-role aircraft arrived for its first deployment to the Middle East on April 15. The F-35A Lightning IIs are from active duty 388th and reserve 419th Fighter Wings at Hill Air Force Base, Utah.

As the first deployment to the U.S. Air Forces Central Command area of responsibility, crews are prepared and trained for the AFCENT mission. The F-35A, the conventional takeoff and landing variant of the Joint Strike Fighter, provides greater operational capability by combining advanced stealth capabilities with the latest weapons technology.

“We are adding a cutting edge weapons system to our arsenal that significantly enhances the capability of the coalition,” said Lt. Gen. Joseph T. Guastella, U.S. Air Forces Central Command commander. “The sensor fusion and survivability this aircraft provides to the joint force will enhance security and stability across the theater and deter aggressors.”

The F-35A is designed with the entire battlespace in mind, and is intended to fuse, integrate and share data with other battlefield assets. It has one of the most powerful and comprehensive integrated sensor packages. It improves lethality, survivability and adaptability against emerging threats in order to maintain air superiority.

“The F-35A provides our nation air dominance in any threat,” said Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein. “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,” he stated.

The F-35A previously deployed to RAF Lakenheath in April 2017, as well as the U.S. Pacific Command area of responsibility in the fall of 2017.

“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.

Photos by Staff Sgt. Chris Thornbury