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Tri-Lightning: Three-nation F-35 exercise demonstrates air power interoperability

A photo of F-35's from the US, Israel and UK.

U.S. Air Force F-35A Lightning IIs, center, lead a formation of Israeli Air Force F-35I, right, and Royal Air Force F-35B, left, during Exercise Tri-Lightning over the Eastern Mediterranean Sea, June 25, 2019. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Keifer Bowes)

A photo of an F-35A pilot entering the cockpit.

A U.S. Air Force pilot from the 4th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron enters the cockpit of an F-35A Lightning II before Exercise Tri-Lightning June 25, 2019, at Al Dhafra Air Base, United Arab Emirates. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Staff Sgt. Chris Thornbury)

The Air Force Reserve plays an integral role in global and national security and proved it recently when F-35 Lightning II aircraft from Hill Air Force Base, Utah’s Reserve and active-duty fighter wings joined other F-35s from the United Kingdom and Israel to participate in Exercise Tri-Lightning over the Eastern Mediterranean Sea.

Exercise Tri-Lightning was a one-day defensive counter air exercise involving friendly and adversary aircraft from the three participating countries and consisted of active and passive air defense operations.

This exercise is a demonstration of the interoperability between the United States, United Kingdom and Israel using the F-35A, F-35B and F-35I respectively.

“We build capacity with our strategic partners to harness our air component’s capabilities and skills,” said Lt. Gen. Joseph Guastella, U.S. Air Force’s Central Command commander. “The transatlantic strategic relationship between the U.S. and our allies and partners has been forged over the past seven decades and is built on a foundation of shared values, experiences and vision.”

The U.S. Air Force F-35As flew from Al Dhafra Air Base, United Arab Emirates, the Royal Air Force F-35Bs flew from RAF Akrotiri, Cyprus, and the Israeli Air Force F-35Is flew from Nevatim Air Base, Israel.

“Tri-Lightning was an exercise which had been planned for months and it provided an outstanding opportunity for the squadron to operate and learn from our fellow F-35 community,” said U.K. Wing Commander John Butcher, Squadron 617 commanding officer. “In addition, it allowed us to share and gain valuable experience that we will be able to exploit during future training and potentially operational deployments, whether embedded on the Queen Elizabeth or from overseas air bases.”

The F-35s from the three nations played as primary friendly, or blue, force players in this exercise while a variety of other aircraft played the aggressor roles, simulating realistic combat situations between the advanced F-35s and previous generation fighters.

“The exercise today reflects the close cooperation between the participating nations,” said Brig. Gen. Ammon Ein-Dar, Israel chief of air staff. “The training opportunity between Israel, the U.S. and Britain strengthens shared capabilities and overall cooperation amongst allies.”

At the time of the exercise, F-35 pilots, maintainers and support personnel from the Air Force Reserve’s 419th Fighter Wing and the active-duty 388th Fighter Wing at Hill were taking part in the Air Force’s first F-35 deployment to the Middle East.

(Millette is assigned to the U.S. Air Forces Central Command public affairs office.)

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