Photo: U.S. Air Force
Late last week, F-16 pilots from Hill’s 419th and 388th Fighter Wings flew air-to-air combat training missions with F-35As assigned to Eglin’s 33rd Fighter Wing for the first time. Three operational F-35A squadrons are planned for Hill, with the aircraft expected to be delivered over the next three years, completing in 2019.
From the release:
“This was a great opportunity for our F-16s to operate with the F-35. This mission allowed us to train for seamless integration of the Air Force’s fourth and fifth generation fighters and provided invaluable insight into the future of fighter operations at Hill AFB,” said Lt. Col. David Castaneda, the 419 FW’s 466th Fighter Squadron commander.
In December 2013, Hill was named the Air Force’s first operational basing location for the F-35A. The active duty 388th FW and Air Force Reserve 419th FW will fly and maintain the aircraft in a Total Force partnership. While the wings already work together at home station, training as one element alongside Eglin’s 33rd Fighter Wing mirrors their real-world mission.
“We are a Total Force Integration operation,” said Maj. Jayson Rickard, assistant director of operations in the 466th FS. “Everything we do back home and when we deploy is side-by-side with our active-duty counterparts. This is very representative of what we would do in combat.”
The F-35A combines advanced capabilities of stealth with fighter speed and agility, fully fused sensor information, network-enabled operations and advanced sustainment.
“I really enjoyed flying with the F-35s here and it was great to see its impressive set of capabilities up close,” said Capt. Alex Turner, 388th FW pilot.