Fighter Squadron returns from European exercisesJun 24, 2021 04:07PM ● By Becky Ginos
Two U.S. Air Force F-35A Lightning IIs assigned to the 4th Fighter Squadron, Hill Air Force Base, Utah, and two Dassault Rafales assigned to the 1/4 Gascogne Fighter Squadron, 113 Saint-Dizier-Robinson air base, France, break formation during flight May 18, 2021 over France. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Alexander Cook)
HILL AIR FORCE BASE—The 4th Fighter Squadron comprised of active duty Airmen from the 388th Fighter Wing and Reservists from the 419th FW returned to Utah last week after deploying the F-35A Lightning II to Europe a month ago.
The squadron participated in Atlantic Trident 21 at Mont-de-Marsan Air Base, France May 17 – 28 and the initial stages of Falcon Strike 21 at Amendola Air Base, Italy.
The Hill AFB Airmen brought the F-35A’s fifth-generation combat capabilities to integrate with France’s Air and Space Force and the U.K. Royal Air Force and Navy in large-scale aerial combat scenarios, according to a release.
“Fourth to fifth-generation integration is about putting teams together that leverage their unique capabilities,” Gen. Jeff Harrigian, Commander of U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces Africa said in the statement. “It’s really optimizing the force to generate the combat power we need to deter and win.”
The 4th FS focused primarily on bringing the advanced technology of the F-35 into offensive and defensive counter-air missions during Atlantic Trident. The more information an F-35 can gather and share with friendly units allows every fourth-generation platform in a force package to be more lethal and survivable, the release said.
“We utilized advancements in datalink and tactical integration to meld out formations into a singular fighting force,” Lt. Col. Joshua Arki, 4th Fighter Squadron commander said. “Integration helps maximize the advantages of each type of aircraft at the point of attack.”
Arki said the most beneficial aspect of the exercise was the chance for the 4th FS to cooperate with the U.K. and French military aircraft and crews. The group was able to build personal relationships and overcome language and cultural barriers through group planning, briefing, academics and “no-holds barred debriefs” after each mission.
“You can’t surge trust, you have to build it over time… where people look each other in the eye and understand how we’re going to operate through these kinds of exercises,” said Harrigian. “That’s how we’re going to do it if we have to go into combat.”
The squadron also fully integrated with the Marines, Italian Air Force, Israeli Air Force and British Royal Air Force during the initial stages of Falcon Strike 21, another multinational exercise in Italy before returning to Hill.
This is the third time the 388th and 419th Fighter Wings have deployed the F-35A to Europe.
“The 4th Fighter Squadron have done a phenomenal job of getting here, bedding down and immediately integrating with our French and United Kingdom partners,” said Harrigian. “That’s what we do and I want to thank them for the way that they did it. Complete professionals every day.”