AL DHAFRA, UAE --- Directly aligned with the 2018 National Defense Strategy’s call to be strategically predictable but operationally unpredictable, F-35A Lightning IIs from the 4th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron participated in Exercise Agile Lightning, Aug. 4-7, 2019.
“Exercise Agile Lightning is a demonstration of the agile basing concepts practiced by U.S. Air Force fighter squadrons from their home bases,” said Lt. Col. Joshua Arki, 4th EFS commander. “The "Fightin' Fuujins" of the 4th EFS successfully deployed a small detachment of aircraft and personnel to a forward location, supporting combat operations from that location for a given period of time, and then re-deployed back to our primary operating location.”
The 4th EFS and the 380th Expeditionary Maintenance Squadron are both assigned to Al Dhafra Air Base, United Arab Emirates, and temporarily deployed to the 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing, Southwest Asia.
Adaptive basing exercises require all levels of the squadron to deploy small teams of Airmen and aircraft for a short amount of time to hone their skills. This was the first adaptive basing methodology exercise for the F-35A in the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility.
“By executing the adaptive basing concepts we have only practiced at home until now, we increased the readiness, survivability, and lethality of the F-35A in a combat theater,” Arki said. “The Agile Lightning team worked hard to coordinate with multiple bases and across U.S. Air Force core disciplines, such as; logistics, munitions, force support, communications, air mobility, Combined Air Operations Center staff, etc., to ensure mission success.”
While deployed to the 332nd AEW, the 4th EFS was able to complete essential missions vital to the defense of U.S. assets and personnel and continued to project air power.
“We were able to safely bring the jets and people here to continue supporting operations with a hundred percent mission effectiveness,” said Capt "Cheque,” 4th EFS pilot. “We were also able to gather lessons learned for untethered operations within the AOR, so that we can more quickly and more efficiently accomplish adaptive basing in the future.”
Adaptive basing methodology is still in its beginning stages. However, it’s being practiced throughout the Air Force, demonstrating for adversaries and allies that with untethered operations, U.S. aircraft are able to adapt and respond as necessary to the often unpredictable operational environment.
“Our adversaries must know that the 4th EFS, the Aircraft Maintenance Unit, and by extension, the entire F-35A enterprise, are not only lethal, but extremely agile,” Arki said. “We are prepared to defend U.S. and coalition interests from nearly anywhere in the world at a moment's notice.”
It took Airmen from all levels, working together, to successfully operate a fifth generation aircraft mission in austere conditions.
“The professionalism, determination, and hard work of the detachment of pilots, maintainers, and support personnel made a significantly challenging task look easy,” Arki said. “The accomplishments of the Agile Lightning team proved once again, that the Fuujins Rock!”
(EDITOR’S NOTE: We have changed to location of this story, as although it was originally labeled as “Undisclosed location, South West Asia,” the accompanying photos were located o, Al Dhafra air base, in the UAE.)