The Pentagon said today it will send “a small number” of F-35A aircraft to Europe this weekend on a training deployment.
As part of the long-planned deployment, the jets will perform in training missions with other U.S. and NATO aircraft for several weeks in support of the European Reassurance Initiative, according to an April 14 statement from the Pentagon.
“This training deployment signifies an important milestone and natural progression of the F-35 program, allowing the Air Force to further demonstrate the operational capabilities of the fifth-generation fighter aircraft,” the statement reads. “It also assists in refining requirements for eventually basing the F-35A in Europe, which is scheduled to receive the aircraft in the early 2020s.”
U.S Air Forces in Europe will release more information about the deployment once the aircraft arrives.
Former Air Combat Command Chief Gen. Herbert Carlisle told reporters in February the training deployment will help the service determine if the aircraft is ready to fly operational combat missions and what capabilities it still needs in order to do that. A second training deployment, also referred to as a theater security package, to the Asia Pacific is expected later this year.
The service expects the F-35A's first deployment will be to U.S. Central Command, and Carlisle said the jet will likely deploy to the Middle East within the next few years. -- Courtney Albon