The US Air Force (USAF) airmen from the Hill Air Force Base (AFB) completed their first combat deployment with the F-35A Lightning II joint strike fighter aircraft.

The six-month-long deployment to Al Dhafra Air Base, UAE, involved airmen from the 388th and 419th Fighter Wings.

The deployment of the 4th Fighter Squadron began in April to support the USAF Central Command Mission in the region.

During the deployment, the airmen performed close air support and regional deterrence missions.

The forces also took part in multinational exercises, including the Exercise Tri-Lightning which saw F-35 pilots from the US, Israel and the UK perform joint training.

USAF 4th Fighter Squadron commander lieutenant colonel Joshua Arki said: “We showed that we deserved a seat at the table just like any other fighter. We demonstrated to our friends and enemies that the F-35A is ready for any of the missions we may be called upon. We can hold any conflict in any theatre at bay.”

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The F-35A, built by Lockheed Martin for the USAF, provides advanced stealth capabilities and increased lethality.

The aircraft is the conventional takeoff and landing variant of the F-35.

Pilots from the active duty 4th FS and Reserve 466th FS were accompanied during the deployment by airmen from the 4th and 466th Aircraft Maintenance Units.

Arki added: “Our pilots, maintainers and support personnel showed motivation and grit. Everyone banded together to carry each other through the highs and the lows of the deployment and in the end, we were incredibly successful.”

Hill AFB received the first operational F-35A aircraft in October 2015.

In September last year, the F-35B from the US Marine Corps performed its first combat strike in the Central Command area of responsibility.