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Two F-35A Lightning II aircraft and approximately 20 supporting Airmen arrived at Ämari Air Base, Estonia, today, from RAF Lakenheath, England.
The F-35As are participating in their first-ever training deployment to Europe. The aircraft and total force Airmen and are from the 34th Fighter Squadron, 388th Fighter Wing, and the Air Force Reserve’s 466th Fighter Squadron, 419th Fighter Wing, Hill Air Force Base, Utah.
The deployment has been planned for some time, has no relations to current events, and was conducted in close coordination with Estonian allies.
It allows the F-35A to engage in familiarization training within the European theater while reassuring allies and partners of U.S. dedication to the enduring peace and stability of the region.
“The introduction of the newest fighter to Europe, with its state of the art systems will help the alliance maintain the fundamental sovereign rights of all nations,” said Margus Tsahkna, Estonian minister of defense, during a ceremony at Ämari Air Base.
This deployment maximizes training opportunities with our allies and partners and serves as a visible demonstration of the United States’ resolve to support NATO assurance measures.
“In addition, hosting such advanced aircraft is certainly a big recognition to Ämari Air Base and to the Estonian air force as a whole, who have made your stay here possible. You’re always welcome here. Enjoy your stay in Estonia and in our skies,” added Tsahkna.
This is the first overseas flying training deployment for the F-35A, signifying an important milestone and natural progression of the joint strike fighter program.
It is the perfect opportunity for the combat-ready aircraft to train alongside U.S. and allied aircraft in a realistic training environment while demonstrating its operational capabilities. Also, it helps to integrate with NATO’s infrastructure and enhance 5th generation aircraft interoperability.
The aircraft and Airmen began arriving in Europe on April 15, and are scheduled to remain in Estonia for a brief period of time before returning to RAF Lakenheath to continue their training deployment.
The KC-135 is from the 100th Air Refueling Wing, RAF Mildenhall, England, and is providing refueling support for the deployment to Estonia.