This month the first operational Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter aircraft have arrived in France. Those fighters will soon take part in multiple events and exercises including the Atlantic Trident 21, which is being held to underscore the steadfast U.S. commitment to the region and to enhance interoperability with NATO allies and partners.
It was more than just a few fighters that headed to Europe.
The United States Air Force F-35A Lightning II fighter aircraft and Airmen from the 4th Fighter Squadron, which is comprised of active-duty Airmen from the 388th Fighter Wing and reservists from the 419th FW, Hill Air Force Base (AFB), Utah, arrived at Mont-de-Marsan Air Base, France, May 10, 2021.
This is the 388th FW’s third deployment to Europe, and follows the 34th Fighter Squadron’s deployment to RAF Lakenheath, England, in April 2017, and the 421st FS Theater Security Package deployment to Aviano Air Base, Italy in May 2019.
However, according to Janes, this is the first time that the fifth-generation stealth fighter has been deployed to France to take part in military exercises, while a pair of F-35As had appeared at the 2017 Paris Airshow at Le Bourget, France.
During the deployment to Europe, the pilots will likely get some spectacular views of the French countryside, not that the F-35A jockeys will have time to take in the sights. During their time at Mont-de-Marsan Air Force Base, they’ll take part in the Atlantic Trident 2021, a joint, multinational exercise involving service members from the U.S., France and the U.K. Its aim is to enhance fourth and fifth generation integration, combat readiness and fighting capabilities, through conducting complex air operations in a contested multinational joint force environment.
The operational and tactical-level tri-lateral field training exercise is being hosted by France for the first time and will take place from May 17-28, 2021.
Scheduled training will involve a combination of flight operations and computer-assisted scenarios.
Aircraft planned to participate in the exercise include U.S. Air Force F-35A Lightning II and KC-135 Stratotanker aircraft, and U.S. Marine Corps F-35B Lightning II aircraft; French Air and Space Force Rafale, KC-135 Stratotanker, A330 Phoenix and E3-F Airborne Warning and Control System aircraft; and Royal Air Force F-35B Lightning, Eurofighter Typhoon, E-3D Sentry and A330 Voyager aircraft.
The Atlantic Trident 2017 exercise was held at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia in April of that year, and it focused on preparing for high-end air combat. It also included British Typhoons and French Rafales but also the United States Air Force F-22 Raptors.
The inaugural Atlantic Trident took place in December 2015 at Langley and was centered on the logistics of the allied partners operating at a high tempo. It actually began as a public event, with air chiefs from all three countries appearing at a joint press conference in front of their respective jets, Air Force Magazine reported. While all three air forces had flown together extensively in operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, Atlantic Trident was designed to provide an opportunity to address potential high-end threats from near-peer adversaries, that can only mean Russia and China.
Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers and websites. He regularly writes about military small arms, and is the author of several books on military headgear including A Gallery of Military Headdress, which is available on Amazon.com.