The Buzz

The Lockheed Martin F-35A Joint Strike Fighter Gets Ready for a 'Fake' Fight

The Lockheed Martin F-35A Joint Strike Fighter is participating in the U.S. Air Force’s massive Red Flag wargames at Nellis Air Force, Nevada, starting this week. It is the first time the new single-engine stealth fighter has participated in the exercise since it was declared operational last summer with in an interim Block 3i capability.

“The significance of this Red Flag is that it will be the first time that we have U.S. Air Force F-35 [Lightning II] participation,” Maj. Jeffrey Falanga, 414th Combat Training Squadron director of operations, said in an Air Force release. “The F-35 will be operating with the F-22 Raptor so there will be additional fifth generation capability and integration that will occur. It is also going to be one of the first times the F-35 operates with coalition assets.”

Though the F-35 is brand new, the unit’s commander expressed his confidence in the stealth fighter. “Our Airmen are excited to bring the F-35 to a full-spectrum combat exercise,” said Col. David Lyons, 388th FW commander, in a statement. “(The Red Flag) battle space is going to be a great place to leverage our stealth and interoperability. It’s a lethal platform and I’m confident we will prove to be an invaluable asset to the commander.”

The F-35 will fly alongside its older air-superiority oriented stable-mate, the Lockheed Martin F-22A Raptor. The Raptors from the 1st Fighter Wing’s 27th Fighter Squadron led personally by wing commander Col. Pete Fesler are also participating in the exercise called Red Flag 17-1.

“This year we are the core unit, meaning we are the heartbeat for Red Flag,” said Capt. Matthew Siverio, the 1st Fighter Wing’s Red Flag 17-1 core unit project officer. "Each member that is attached to the core unit will utilize their expertise to match the expectations of the Red Flag Air Expeditionary Wing commander to ultimately make this the most successful Red Flag we can."

In many ways, the 1st Fighter Wing and its Raptors are the most important unit participating in the wargames. “We're here as a core unit to help all other participating units by lending our expertise and ensuring they have all the necessary resources they need to meet the objectives set out by Red Flag staff and their respective units,” Siverio said.

During the three-week exercise, a host fourth and fifth generation’ jets will pit friendly ‘Blue Forces’ against enemy ‘Red Forces’ in live and synthetic training environments, simulating air-to-air, air-to-ground and space and cyber warfare—according to the Air Force.

Dave Majumdar is the defense editor for the National Interest. You can follow him on Twitter: @davemajumdar.