USAF reactivates 356th Fighter Squadron ahead of F-35 arrival

18 October 2019 (Last Updated October 18th, 2019 16:00)

The US Air Force (USAF) has reactivated the 356th Fighter Squadron (FS) in Alaska to prepare for the arrival of the F-35 Lightning II joint strike fighter aircraft.

USAF reactivates 356th Fighter Squadron ahead of F-35 arrival
David Skalicky passes the 356th FS guidon to 356th FS commander lieutenant colonel James Christensen. Credit: U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Aaron Larue Guerrisky.

The US Air Force (USAF) has reactivated the 356th Fighter Squadron (FS) in Alaska to prepare for the arrival of the F-35 Lightning II joint strike fighter aircraft.

The squadron reactivation ceremony took place at the Eielson Air Force Base on 10 October.

The 356th FS is the first of two fighter squadrons to be based at the Eielson Air Force Base to deter possible adversaries in the Indo-Asia Pacific region.

Around 54 F-35As are scheduled to arrive at the base from mid-2020.

USAF 356th FS commander lieutenant colonel James Christensen said: “The 356th FS is reactivating to bring F-35s out to the Pacific Theater.

“Looking back at the squadron history, the 356th Tactical Fighter Squadron was previously stationed in the Pacific for both the Vietnam conflict, and to defend Korea and Japan out of Kunsan Air Base and Misawa Air Base respectively. We are excited to bring the squadron back to the (Indo-Pacific Command) theatre.”

Christensen received the 356th FS guidon from 354th Operations Group commander colonel David Skalick.

The USAF stated that the strategic location of the fighter squadron will allow it to work with allies in the Indo-Pacific region and to be ready for global deployment.

The squadron will focus on preparing for the arrival and the subsequent employment of the F-35 fighter jet weapons system.

Christensen added: “We are strategically placed here in Alaska to prepare and project fifth-generation stealth fighter capabilities, working with our programme partners and allies in the Pacific and to be ready, if called, to deploy around the world.”

For the 354th Fighter Wing, the reactivation marks a key step in the return of its air assets to operational combat status.

He said: “The 354th FW has done an amazing job preparing for the arrival of the F-35. The transition to a combat force-provider mindset is what we will all get to learn together.”

Last month, Eielson hosted ten F-35s from the Luke Air Force Base for a training capstone.