The United States Air Force recently demonstrated that its fifth-generation stealth fighter truly is on the cutting edge and beyond. The Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II showed its endurance and reach capabilities as part of the ongoing Northern Edge 23-2.
On July 4, while Americans were celebrating the nation’s independence, four F-35As assigned to the 355th Fighter Squadron launched out of Eielson Air Force Base (AFB), Alaska, and flew for ten hours joining allied forces in the air for a simulated combat training mission over the Indo-Pacific region. The drills highlighted how the F-35 could take off from North America and then be employed in combat operations thousands of miles away.
“This was the first time F-35s have flown directly from a home base in North America into the first island chain to participate in a tactical training mission,” said U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Michael Mickus, 355th FS commander, “This flight demonstrates the USAF’s ability to deploy fighter aircraft from Alaska directly into potential combat operations in a highly relevant part of the world.”
F-35: Deploy to Employ
The success of the “deploy to employ mission proved to be the culmination of careful planning and coordination across Indo-Pacific Command aimed to increase lethality while strengthening interoperability between the U.S. and allied forces in the Pacific, the U.S. Air Force stated.
It was also truly a team effort that featured the best fighter in the world, along with the best support crews.
“We were escorted by three KC-135 Stratotankers who refueled us 13 times, in order to join our assets that launched from Kadena and Iwakuni within a narrow 15-minute flying window,” explained U.S. Air Force Capt. Joshua Christen, 355th FS, pilot. “Coordination and synchronization played a vital role in our success today.”
After the long haul, and upon mission completion, the F-35s safely landed at Kadena Air Base, Japan. It concluded the historic endurance mission that served to validate the U.S. Air Force’s ability to deliver airpower on-time, on-target across vast distances.
“This was the longest mission I’ve flown in my Air Force career,” said U.S. Air Force Capt. Rachel Self, 355th FS, pilot. “Northern Edge provides opportunities for us to train like we will fight – as a joint and coalition force.”
According to the Air Force, the ongoing Northern Edge 23-2 is a combined, joint, all-domain field training exercise taking place at various locations in the Pacific region. The drills involved 60 airmen and a pair of B-52Hs from the 5th bomb wing operating from Indonesia – a first for the bomber type.
This iteration of the Northern Edge exercises began on July 2 and will conclude on July 21, providing a unique training opportunity for aircraft and personnel to practice, project, and exercise agile combat employment capabilities to ensure long-lasting peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific region.
The first Northern Edge exercise took place in 1993.
This is also the most recent deployment of Lightning II fighters to Kadena AB – as F-35As from the 355th Fighter Squadron also arrived at the base on March 28, to ensure continuous fighter presence through the phased return of Kadena AB’s fleet of F-15C/D Eagles to the United States.
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A Senior Editor for 19FortyFive, Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer. He has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers, and websites with over 3,200 published pieces over a twenty-year career in journalism. He regularly writes about military hardware, firearms history, cybersecurity, politics, and international affairs. Peter is also a Contributing Writer for Forbes and Clearance Jobs. You can follow him on Twitter: @PeterSuciu.