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Air Force deploys 388th, 419th Fighter Wings to Middle East

F-35A Lightning II's await to taxi at Hill Air Force Base in Utah May 20. Photo by R. Nial Bradshaw/U.S. Air Force Base
F-35A Lightning II's await to taxi at Hill Air Force Base in Utah May 20. Photo by R. Nial Bradshaw/U.S. Air Force Base

June 2 (UPI) -- The Air Force announced Tuesday that it has deployed troops from the 388th and 419th Fighter Wings, flying F-35A Lightning II aircraft, into combat to support the United States in the Middle East.

The 421st Fighter Squadron departed Utah's Hill Air Force Base on May 20 for Al Dhafra Air Base in the United Arab Emirates to support Central Command in the region, the Air Force said.

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This marks the third deployment for the 388th and 419th Fighter Wings in about 12 months.

"The 421st Fighter Squadron completed their stand up in December and now they're our latest squadron heading into the fight," Col. Steven Behmer, 388th Fighter Wing commander, said in a press release.

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"This demonstrates the readiness of our Airmen, our weapons system, and the importance of both the Air Force and our national defense mission," Behmer said. "On top of that, add in prepping and training in this challenging coronavirus environment. As leaders, we couldn't be more proud of our Airmen."

Three weeks ago a wave of active and reserve Airmen who were deployed with the 34th Fighter Squadron returned to Hill after a six-month deployment to the Middle East. A large contingent of airmen from the 34th still there will return to the United States "soon," the Air Force said.

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The 388th and 419th Fighter Wings are the Air Force's first combat-compatible F-35A units, having reaching full warfighting capability earlier this year.

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The first operational F-35As arrived at Hill AFB in October 2015, and the base now has 78 of the aircraft.

The active duty 388th Fighter Wing and Air Force Reserve 419th fly and maintain the jet in a force partnership.

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