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F-35A, F-15 Pilots Train Together During Lakenheath Deployment

U.S. European Command // May 04, 2017

The F-35A continues to prove itself a game-changer as airmen train together during the aircraft’s first overseas deployment here.

Eight F-35As and more than 250 airmen from the active duty 388th and Reserve 419th Fighter Wings at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, deployed here April 15. Pilots and maintainers are generating roughly 10 sorties a day, training alongside F-15Cs and F-15Es from the 48th Fighter Wing, as well as the Royal Air Force and other NATO allies.

Integrating with the F-35 is a new experience for many of the F-15 pilots, said Air Force Lt. Col. Scott Taylor, an F-15C pilot and the 493rd Fighter Squadron’s director of operations.

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Pilots say the F-35A’s stealth and sensor capabilities are impressive.

“The stealth of the aircraft allows us to go where other aircraft cannot and our sensors and communication allow us to identify targets and allow fourth generation aircraft to dominate the airspace,” Watkins said.

The squadrons have also been flying against each other. F-15Cs are well known for being an air-dominance platform, and the F-35A pilots are enjoying the unique opportunity to fly against other airmen in a foreign country in an airspace they’ve never before flown in with the F-35A.

“For me, it’s my first time dogfighting against an F-15,” said Air Force Maj. Luke Harris, a 34th Fighter Squadron F-35A pilot. “Dogfighting is a test of pilot skill, but it’s also constrained by the aircraft’s capabilities, and I’ve been really impressed by the flight control and maneuverability of the F-35.”

However, with the F-35A’s stealth capability, dogfights aren’t likely, Harris said. Stealth, he said, allows pilots to fly undetected to a “visual merge” and engage air targets before enemies have time to react defensively, which is an advantage over the fourth-generation tactics he employed when he flew the F-16.