A “small number” of U.S. Air Force F-35As from Hill AFB, Utah, arrived at RAF Lakenheath, England, on 15th April, marking the type’s first overseas deployment.
Personnel from the 388th Fighter Wing and Air Force Reserve’s 419th Fighter Wing, both at Hill, will spend the next “several weeks" conducting air training in Europe as part of the European Reassurance Initiative.
As part of the training deployment, the aircraft will forward deploy to NATO nations to maximize training opportunities, build partnerships with allied air forces and gain a broad familiarity of Europe’s diverse operating conditions. The aircraft will conduct training with other US and NATO aircraft based in Europe, according to the USAF.
Refueling aircraft from four different bases offloaded more than 400,000 pounds of fuel during the transatlantic flight to Europe. C-17 and C-5 aircraft supported the deploying by moving maintenance equipment and personnel.
The F-35A is scheduled for operational deployment to European bases in the early 2020s, starting at Lakenheath.