Three F-35A Lightning II aircraft land at Al Dhafra Air Base, United Arab Emirates, on Monday, as part of the U.S. Air Forces Central Command. Photo by Staff Sgt. Chris Thornbury/U.S. Air Force
April 16 (UPI) -- The U.S. Air Force has deployed the F-35A Lightning II, a fifth-generation fighter plane, to the Middle East for the first time.
F-35A Lightning II aircraft arrived Monday at Al Dhafra Air Base in the United Arab Emirites from Hill Air Force Base, Utah, the U.S. Air Forces Central Command said Monday in a news release.
The planes are attached to the active-duty 388th Fighter Wing and the reserve 419th Fighter Wing.
The F-35A, which has conventional takeoffs and landings, provides greater operational capability than other planes by combining advanced stealth capabilities with the latest weapons technology, according to the Air Force. It is part of the Joint Strike Fighter program.
"The F-35A provides our nation air dominance in any threat," said Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein. "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."
In April 2017, the F-35A deployed to Royal Air Force Lakenheath in England, as well as the U.S. Pacific Command area of responsibility.
The F-35′s are now part of a coalition that carries out airstrikes against the Taliban in Afghanistan and scattered remnants of the Islamic State. One month ago, the B-1B Lancer bombers completed their deployment at Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar.
"We are adding a cutting edge weapons system to our arsenal that significantly enhances the capability of the coalition," Lt. Gen. Joseph T. Guastella, U.S. Air Forces Central Command commander, said. "The sensor fusion and survivability this aircraft provides to the joint force will enhance security and stability across the theater and deter aggressors."
The F-35A is replacing planes such as the F-16 and A-10, which have been the Air Force's primary fighter jets for more than 20 years. The U.S. Navy will replace the F/A-18 with F-35C for carriers and the U.S. Marines will replace the F/A-18 and AV-8B Harrier with the F-35B for short takeoff and vertical landing.
"Numerous militaries around the world also need to recapitalize their aging fighter fleets with modern, more capable aircraft," Lockheed Martin, the prime contractor, said on its website. "The F-35 was designed to recapitalize allied fighter fleets and counter emerging threats."
Principal partners are Northrop Grumman and BAE System. Pratt & Whitney builds the F-35's F135 propulsion system
The plane includes fully fused sensor information, network-enabled operations and advanced sustainment.
The Lightning II is a single-seat, single-engine fighter aircraft with a range of more than 1,350 miles with internal fuel, according to the Air Force. It was introduced to the Air Force in 2016.