US F-35As Arrive in UAE for First Middle East Deployment

U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Chris Thornbury

Four Lightning II fifth generation multi-role jets belonging to the active duty 388th and reserve 419th Fighter Wings at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, have arrived at Al Dhafra Air Base, UAE, for the F-35A’s first deployment to the Middle East.

Supported by three tankers, the F-35s made a stopover in Moron Air Base, Spain, before arriving at the United Arab Emirates Additional F-35s are on their way along the same route. 

It is the first deployment to the US Air Force Central Command area of responsibility for the USAF F-35A aircraft, which has previously deployed to the UK and Japan.

According to an AFCENT release, “The F-35A is designed with the entire battlespace in mind and is intended to fuse, integrate and share data with other battlefield assets. It has one of the most powerful and comprehensive integrated sensor packages. It improves lethality, survivability, and adaptability against emerging threats in order to maintain air superiority.”

The Aviationist estimates that the F-35 will be tasked with missions similar to those carried out by the F-22 Raptors that have been flying over Iraq and Syria as “electronic warfare enabled sensor-rich multi-role aircraft” escorting strike packages into and out of the target area while gathering details about the enemy systems and spreading intelligence to other “networked” assets supporting the mission to improve the overall situational awareness.