F-35A Lightning II fifth generation aircraft from the Vermont Air National Guard departed to Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany.
At least eight F-35A stealth aircraft, belonging to the 158th Fighter Wing of the U.S. Air Force are currently deploying to Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, to support Enhanced Air Policing mission on NATO’s Eastern Flank. The aircraft launched from their base at Burlington ANGB, Vermont, early on May 2, 2022.
Supported by at least four tankers, the “Green Mountain Boys” of the 158th FW are due replace the F-35A jets belonging to the 388th FW and 419th FW from Hill Air Force Base, Utah, that have been operating out of Spangdahlem since Feb. 16, 2022. In the beginning, the VT ANG will not completely replace the Hill AFB’s F-35s but they will complement the Hill AFB F-35s as the Lightning II jets of the various active, ANG and Reserve’s jets are expected to operate together from the German base for some weeks.
The images of the F-35As launching from Burlington ANGB, show that the aircraft were fitted with their RCS Enhancers/Radar Reflectors/Luneburg Lenses (as per normal procedure for ferry flights). It will be interesting to understand whether they will operate in “stealth mode” (without radar reflectors/Luneburg lenses) during their patrols over Eastern Europe, as done by the Hill’s F-35s.
Airmen from the 158th FW started deploying to Europe aboard an Omni Air International B-767 on Apr. 29, 2022.
“We are proud to send our Airmen to support the collective defense of our allies and partners,” said Army Maj. Gen. Greg Knight, the adjutant general of Vermont in a public release. “This deployment demonstrates some of the strategic capabilities the Vermont Air National Guard can provide to the nation when needed.”
These regular deployments, part of a series of standard U.S. rotations in the European Area of Operations, are part of the U.S. commitment to training and interoperability with our European allies.
“Being called upon only four months out of conversion to an operational F-35 fighter wing is a testament to our team, their professionalism, commitment and proven capabilities,” said Air Force Col. David Shevchik, commander of the 158th Fighter Wing. “It is when we are needed most that we are at our best. The Green Mountain Boys are ready and proud to answer this call, and we’re grateful for the support of our families, employers and communities.”
The one to Europe amidst growing tensions with Russia following the invasion Ukraine, is the first Vermont Air National Guard deployment in 6 years. Previously, flying the F-16 “Viper” (as the aircraft is dubbed in the fighter pilots community) the Wing took part in several deployments in support of the Global War on Terrorism. During 9/11, the Vermont Air National Guard rapidly mobilized to provide area security patrols over New York City, a mission they maintained for over 120 consecutive days. This short-term deployment is conducted in full coordination with host nations and NATO military authorities, and although temporary in nature, they are prudent measures to increase readiness and enhance NATOs collective defense during this period of uncertainty.
The 158th Fighter Wing ceased their F-16C/D Block 30 operations on Apr. 6, 2019, after flying the jet for 33 years. The first F-35A in 158th FW markings (AF17-5265) made its first flight from Lockheed Martin Ft. Worth facility, Texas, on Jul. 31, 2019. The first two ANG F-35A aircraft landed at their home in Burlington ANGB, Vermont, on Sept. 19, 2019.