The US Air Force (USAF) has deployed two F-35 Lightning II aircraft to Bulgaria for the first time, enhancing the region’s ability to host the aircraft for future deployments and operations.
Supported by 20 airmen, the aircraft arrived from the British Royal Air Force's (RAF) base in Lakenheath, England, where they were originally sent to take part in a training deployment.
On 15 April, eight USAF F-35As were sent to Lakenheath to train alongside F-15Cs and F-15Es from the 48th Fighter Wing, as well as the RAF and other Nato allies.
US European commander and Nato's supreme allied chief for Europe army general Curtis M Scaparrotti said: “This deployment clearly demonstrates our nation's contribution to security and collective defence.
“It shows we are serious about territorial integrity and will defend our interests with the most advanced capabilities our nation has to offer.”
The F-35A pilots and supporting airmen will be able to participate in familiarisation training within the European theatre while reassuring allies and partners of US dedication to the enduring peace and stability in the region, according to USAF officials.
The aircraft and airmen deployed to Bulgaria are from the Air Force’s 34th Fighter Squadron and its Reserve’s 466th Fighter Squadron at Hill Air Force Base, Utah.
The forward distribution of F-35As throughout Europe is anticipated to maximise opportunities for training while also strengthening the Nato alliance.
The fighter jet is said to provide precision attack capability against current and emerging threats.
Image: Two F-35A Lightning IIs from the 388th Fighter Squadron and three F-15C Eagles from the 493rd Fighter Squadron fly in formation during a training sortie over the UK. Photo: courtesy of US Air Force photo by technical sergeant Roidan Carlson.