F-35As arrive in Bulgaria

  • Published
  • By Additional reporting by Air Force Tech. Sgt. Jessica Hines, U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Africa
  • Headquarters U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces Africa

Two F-35A Lightning II aircraft and approximately 20 supporting Airmen arrived at Graf Ignatievo Air Base, Bulgaria, today, from RAF Lakenheath, England.

The F-35As are participating in the first-ever training deployment to Europe. The aircraft and total force Airmen are from the 34th Fighter Squadron, 388th Fighter Wing, and the Air Force Reserve’s 466th Fighter Squadron, 419th Fighter Wing, Hill Air Force Base, Utah.

Similar to the aircraft’s visit to Estonia on Tuesday, this training deployment has been planned for some time and was conducted in close coordination with Bulgarian allies. It allows the F-35A the opportunity to engage in familiarization training within the European theater while reassuring allies and partners of U.S. dedication to the enduring peace and stability of the region.

This is the first overseas flying training deployment of the U.S. Air Force’s F-35As. The deployment provides support to bolster the security of NATO allies and partners in Europe while demonstrating the U.S. commitment to regional and global security.

This training deployment signifies an important milestone and natural progression of the joint strike fighter program, allowing the U.S. to further demonstrate the operational capabilities of the aircraft.

It also assists in refining the beddown requirements for the F-35A at RAF Lakenheath in order to enhance Europe’s ability to host the future capabilities of the Air Force and coalition team. Also, it helps to integrate with NATO’s infrastructure and enhance 5th generation aircraft interoperability.

The aircraft and Airmen began arriving in Europe on April 15, and are scheduled to remain in Bulgaria for a brief period of time before returning to RAF Lakenheath to continue their training deployment.

The KC-135 is from 459th Air Refueling Wing, Joint Base Andrews, Md., and is providing refueling support for the deployment to Bulgaria.

Photos and videos of the deployment are available at https://www.dvidshub.net/feature/usafef35a