F-35 deploys to Middle East for first time

US Air Force F-35As deployed to the Middle East for the first time on Monday, arriving in the United Arab Emirates for combat operations across the region.

F 35 deploys to Middle East for first time Two F-35A Lightning II (Picture source: US Air Force)

An undisclosed number of F-35s, assigned to the Active Duty 388th and Reserve 419th Fighter Wings at Hill AFB, Utah, are operating from Al Dhafra Air Base.

“We are adding a cutting edge weapons system to our arsenal that significantly enhances the capability of the coalition,” Lt. Gen. Joseph Guastella, commander of Air Forces Central Command, said. “The sensor fusion and survivability this aircraft provides to the joint force will enhance security and stability across the theater and deter aggression.”

This is the first deployment to CENTCOM for USAF F-35s, which previously deployed to Europe in April 2017 and the Pacific in the fall of 2017. US Marine Corps F-35Bs deployed to the Middle East aboard the USS Essex last fall.

The F-35A provides our nation air dominance in any threat,” Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Dave Goldfein said in the release. “When it comes to having a quarterback for the coalition joint force, the inter-operable F-35A is clearly the aircraft for the leadership role.”

The deployment comes as US and coalition air operations have drawn down as part of the anti-ISIS fight in Iraq and Syria, though strikes have stayed steady in Afghanistan.