The F-35s from Hill Air Force Base have arrived at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany.
Twelve F-35A Lightning II jets belonging to the 34th Fighter Squadron from Hill Air Force Base, Utah, have arrived at Spangdahlem on Feb. 16, 2022, to “bolster readiness, enhance NATO’s collective defense posture and further increase air integration capabilities with Allied and Partner nations.”
The deployment, coordinated with the German government involves pilots, maintainers and support personnel from the active duty 388th and Reserve 419th Fighter Wing, which, in total, operate 78 F-35A stealth aircraft at their homebase at Hill AFB.
“Our Airmen and aircraft were ready to go. I’m thankful for their hard work, and all of the support we received from Hill Air Force Base to get out the door,” said Col. Craig Andrle, 388th Fighter Wing commander in a public release. “This deployment proves we can provide our Air Force the capabilities of the F-35A anywhere in the world rapidly.”
“The deployment of U.S. F-35As to Spangdahlem Air Base increases the defensive posture of the NATO Alliance and enhances our ability to operate together,” said Gen. Jeff Harrigian, Commander U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces Africa and Commander Allied Air Command. “We are facing a dynamic environment and this deployment significantly enhances our support to NATO’s defenses.”
“A group of Reserve F-35 pilots and maintainers have joined our active duty counterparts in a deployment to the region and stand ready to support increased security for our NATO allies,” said Col. Matt Fritz, 419th Fighter Wing commander. “We train specifically for moments like these to answer the nation’s call in short order.”
This is the second time the Hill AFB’s F-35s deploy to Spangdahlem. In 2019 fifth generation aircraft and members of the 421st and 466th Fighter Squadrons deployed to Europe (operating from Aviano AB, Italy; Spangdahlem AB, Germany and Powidz, Poland, among the others) where they operated for several weeks attending exercises and integrating with other Europe-based aircraft as part of a TSP (Theater Security Package). Previously, in 2017, the 34th Fighter Squadron operated from RAF Lakenheath, UK, in what was the first “European Tour” of the 388th FW and 419th FW, that collectively are the USAF’s first combat coded unit flying the Lightning II.
European TSPs are periodic long-planned rotational presences of U.S. military assets in the European theater “capable of deterring adversaries and assuring partners and allies of U.S. commitment to regional security.” The fact that this latest deployment is not connected with a pre-planned TSP confirms that it was commanded as a consequence of the raising tension with Russia around Ukraine.
The crisis has already led to a significant build-up across the Old Continent, that includes a U.S. aircraft carrier in the Med Sea (with some Super Hornets deployed to Aviano); eight F-15Es from the 336th Fighter Squadron, 4th Fighter Wing, Seymour Johnson AFB, N.C., deployed to Lask, Poland, and six KC-135 Stratotankers from the 100th Aerial Refueling Wing, RAF Mildenhall, U.K., deployed to Ramstein Air Base, Germany.
Already in Europe and flying long missions across the region and beyond are the four B-52 that have arrived at RAF Fairford last week.