SPANGDAHLEM AIR BASE, Germany — The U.S. Air Force has deployed one squadron of F-35A Lightning II fighter aircraft, Airmen, and associated equipment to Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, from the 388th and 419th Fighter Wings, at Hill AFB, Utah, to participate in exercises and conduct training with other Europe-based aircraft as part of a Theater Security Package.
Funded through the European Deterrence Initiative, the TSP provides a more robust U.S. military rotational presence in the European theater capable of deterring adversaries and assuring partners and allies of U.S. commitment to regional security.
“The entire 421st Ops and Maintenance team are extremely excited for this deployment,” said Lt. Col. Richard Orzechowski, 421st Fighter Squadron commander, as the squadron departed Hill. “As the final 388th Fighter Wing squadron to transition to the F-35A, we’ve been able to leverage the experience of the 4th FS and 34th FS and take the squadron on the road just 6 months after getting our first jets. We are really looking forward to continuing the cohesion built with our allies and partners. It is a real privilege to get the seasoning, training, and life experiences for our 388th and 419th FW Airmen.”
The F-35s and members of the 421st and 466th Fighter Squadrons arrived at Aviano Air Base, Italy, on May 23, participated in the Astral Knight exercise, and have transitioned to Spangdahlem for the duration of their summer-long deployment.
The 388th FW is the Air Force’s first combat-coded, or operational F-35A unit. This is their second deployment to Europe. The first was the 34th Fighter Squadron deployment to RAF Lakenheath, England, in April 2017. The 421st FS is the newest F-35A squadron, and this is their first deployment with the multi-role stealth fighter.
The 421st Fighter Squadron is the newest fighter squadron in the Air Force to stand up the F-35A. They received their first aircraft less than 6 months ago. Planning and moving a dozen aircraft, hundreds of Airmen, and hundreds of thousands of pounds of equipment is a testament to the drive and training of Hill’s fighter wings, said Col. Michael Miles, 388th Maintenance Group commander.
“The F-35 is a challenging aircraft to pick up and move because of the amount of equipment fifth-generation maintenance requires,” Miles said. “This experience will allow our younger Airmen to see how we put a whole deployment together and will make them stronger, particularly as we move forward with combat operations in the F-35.”
F-35s, along with F-22 Raptors, are the world’s premier operational 5th-generation fighters, possessing a unique combination of stealth, speed, agility, and situational awareness along with lethal long-range, air-to-air and air-to-ground weaponry, making these aircraft the best air dominance fighters in the world.
The active-duty 388th FW and Air Force Reserve 419th FW are the Air Force’s only combat-capable F-35 units, maintaining the jets in a Total Force partnership that utilizes the strengths of both components.