Posted on April 17, 2019
Historic Moment: U.S. Air Force F-35 Stealth Fighters Just Went Off to War
At least six F-35s from the 388th and 419th Fighter Wings on April 12, 2019 traveled from their home station at Hill Air Force Base in Utah to Al Dhafra airbase in the United Arab Emirates to participate in coalition air operations targeting Islamic State militants in the Middle East.
“We are adding a cutting-edge weapons system to our arsenal that significantly enhances the capability of the coalition,” said Lt. Gen. Joseph Guastella, commander of U.S. Air Forces Central Command. “The sensor fusion and survivability this aircraft provides to the joint force will enhance security and stability across the theater and deter aggressors.”
Air Force F-35As in April 2017 deployed to Royal Air Force base Lakenheath. USAF F-35As that fall also deployed to the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command area of responsibility. The Middle East deployment is the USAF stealth fighter’s first to a war zone.
The F-35s could fill the gap that the Air Force’s F-22 Raptors left when in February 2019 they departed the Middle East after five years of continuous operations. Older, non-stealthy F-15C fighters stood in for the radar-evading F-22s as the Pentagon’s main air-superiority fighters in the region.
The Air Force once touted the Raptors as a “quarterback” for strike operations in a complex area that includes anti-aircraft threats from the Syrian military, as well as Russian aircraft operating in the region.
Not coincidentally, Air Force leaders have begun describing the F-35 in similar terms. “The F-35A provides our nation air dominance in any threat,” said Gen. David Goldfein, chief of staff of the Air Force. “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.”