HILL AIR FORCE BASE, Utah – Pilots, maintainers, and support personnel from the active duty 388th Fighter Wing and Reserve 419th FW recently completed a combat exercise where they tested and evaluated their capabilities to operate the F-35A in a deployed environment.
The units focused on combat operations and tactical scenarios – aircraft battle damage, downed-pilot recovery, and fighting in an environment with limited or no communications.
The exercise generated nearly 150 sorties in two weeks, on top of normal flying operations.
“The tempo gives our Airmen a taste of deployed operations,” said Lt. Col. Yosef Morris, 4th Fighter Squadron commander. “We want the first time they see these things to be in a training environment, and not when we’re called upon to deploy during a contingency.”
Pilots flew with more gear than they normally do during “home-station” operations, including side arms. Maintainers practiced loading various munitions and worked longer shifts, preparing aircraft sorties late into the evening.
The units also operated and launched jets from alternate locations and ran operations out of a secure deployable facility that houses mission planning, debrief, intelligence, and the Autonomic Logistics Information System, or ALIS, a program designed to help with operations, maintenance, and planning.
Hill AFB is slated to be home to four F-35 fighter squadrons with a total of 78 aircraft by the end of 2019. The 388th FW and 419th FW will fly and maintain the jets in a Total Force partnership, which capitalizes on the strength of both components.