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Hill Airmen deploy F-35A for large combat exercise

  • Published
  • By Micah Garbarino
  • 388th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

Airmen from the active duty 388th and Reserve 419th Fighter Wing here are deploying to Nellis AFB, Nev., to take on a tough adversary – other Airmen.

Approximately 200 Airmen from Hill AFB will participate in Red Flag 21-1 from Jan. 25 to Feb. 12.

The exercise is the Air Force’s premier combat training experience and pits an integrated friendly “Blue Force” against an aggressor “Red Force.” The wings will integrate and fly side-by-side with fighters, bombers, command and control, and other support aircraft from across the Department of Defense.

“There’s no better way to train for combat than to practice in the complex and intense training environment that is Red Flag,” said Col. Matthew Fritz, 419th FW commander. “We look forward to further refining our skills as F-35 pilots and maintainers alongside our active duty counterparts.”

Developed after the Vietnam War, Red Flag was created to give young pilots at least ten combat-realistic, large-scale training missions. Since then, planners have shaped the experience into an all-inclusive modern battlespace, adding space, cyber and intelligence assets aimed at making life as tough as possible for the attending units.

“Working together at Red Flag, in a high-tempo integrated fight, all focused on that day’s missions, is a confidence builder for our young pilots and maintainers,” said Col. Steven Behmer, 388th FW commander. “It’s also a good opportunity to build strong working relationships across weapons systems and cohesiveness as a wing.” 

The scenarios at Red Flag are robust, and the training space has enough threats to realistically test the fifth-generation combat capabilities of the F-35A.

The active duty 388th FW and Air Force Reserve 419th FW are the Air Force's first combat-capable F-35A units. They fly and maintain the jet in a Total Force partnership, which capitalizes on the strength of both components.