The US Air Force (USAF) has deployed an F-35A Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) for an air-to-air combat training exercise, code-named Red Flag, at the Nellis Air Force Base (AFB) in Nevada, for the first time.

The F-35, piloted by the 388th and 419th Fighter Wings, will take part in the exercise along with other fourth and fifth-generation platforms.

During the exercise, the fighter aircraft will provide offensive and defensive counter air, suppression of enemy air defences, and limited close air support.

388th Fighter Wing commander colonel David Lyons said: “Our Airmen are excited to bring the F-35 to a full-spectrum combat exercise.

“This battlespace is going to be a great place to leverage our stealth and interoperability.

"It’s a lethal platform and I’m confident we will prove to be an invaluable asset to the commander."

The exercise will witness participation from both the US and allied nations combat air forces.

"The exercise will witness participation from both the US and allied nations combat air forces."

It will allow aircrews to practise multiple, intensive air combat sorties in the safety of a training environment.

The Red Flag exercise schedule for the 2017 season includes Northern Edge that will run from 27 April to 12 May; Red Flag-Alaska 17-2 between 8 June and 23 June; Red Flag-Alaska 17-3 will begin on 27 July and run through to 11 August.

The first operational F-35As arrived at Hill AFB in October 2015 and the base will eventually be home to three operational F-35 fighter squadrons including a total of 78 aircraft by the end of 2019.

Image: F-35A Lightning II prepare to depart Hill Air Force Base to participate in exercise Red Flag. Photo: courtesy of US Air Force photo / R. Nial Bradshaw.