F-35 Wings Test Combat Capability
(Source: Air Combat Command; issued Sept 18, 2020)
Reservists in the 419th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron load a GBU-39 bomb into an F-35A weapons bay at Hill Air Force Base, Utah. The team moved quickly and methodically to load an inert bomb onto the jet before it conducted a simulated targeting mission. (USAF photo)
HILL AFB, Utah --- The active duty 388th Fighter Wing and Reserve 419th Fighter Wing participated in a rigorous training exercise this week aimed at testing their combat capability. Pilots and maintainers from the wings have been flying and generating roughly 80 sorties per day, some into the nighttime hours.

“Conducting an exercise during a pandemic is a very good way to assess the wing’s capabilities in a contested environment,” said Col. Matthew Fritz, 419th FW commander.

The wings are required to train at night to maintain their combat readiness and all-weather capabilities. This exercise provided combat scenarios created to evaluate aircraft maintenance and operational agility.

Personnel from the 419th FW participated in the exercise as part of their yearly annual tour requirement. Most of the wing’s reservists have fulltime jobs in the local community and serve their nation part time, training one weekend per month and two weeks per year.

“Team Hill is working together to practice as we would play in a deployed environment,” said Col. Steven Behmer, 388th FW commander. “We are a whole team – active duty and reservists – and the work is done seamlessly.”

The exercise tests the reservists’ readiness and abilities when faced with tasks more frequently than in a normal drill weekend.

Airmen from both wings are currently deployed in the Middle East.

Hill AFB is home to 78 F-35A Lightning IIs. The 388th and 419th are the Air Force’s first combat-capable F-35A units and operate in a total force partnership, which capitalizes on the strength of both active duty and Reserve components.

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