388th Fighter Wing takes F-35A to Red Flag as core wing

  • Published
  • By Micah Garbarino
  • 388th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

HILL AIR FORCE BASE, Utah -- The 388th Fighter Wing will be the core wing at Red Flag 24-1, the Air Force’s premier high-end training exercise, which takes place at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, several times per year.

The 421st Fighter Squadron and 421st Fighter Generation Squadron, alongside Reservists from the 419th Fighter Wing, will deploy the F-35A Lightning II and approximately 200 Airmen to train alongside other Air Force, DOD, and allied-nation units.

The wing last served as the Red Flag core in 2022. A lot has changed. Red Flag now incorporates Agile Combat Employment elements and a follow-on exercise where units disperse and operate from various locations.

“The new additions will allow us to stress our ability to generate, employ, and recover our F-35s in a combat-representative contested environment, against the most advanced training threats available,” said Lt. Col. Nathan Heguy 421st Fighter Squadron commander.

Red Flag has become a multi-domain, simulated war that includes air, space, cyber and intelligence components – all designed to align with the National Defense Strategy – replicating and better preparing for modern adversaries. The F-35A is a key component in that fight.

“Being static simply isn’t an option. To win, we must train and learn to be more agile while maintain effectiveness and lethality,” said Col. Michael Gette, 388th Fighter Wing commander. “Taking the great training environment already present at Red Flag and combining these ACE elements makes this a tremendous learning opportunity for our entire wing.”   

While the scope of Red Flag’s missions has expanded, a primary goal remains giving not just pilots, but maintainers much needed experience prior to combat.

“This exercise will present a unique opportunity for our entire team to learn and grow in a simulated contested environment,” said Maj Bryan Butler, 421st FGS commander. “It will challenge our FGS’s capability to prepare and execute rapid disaggregation operations with the F-35A, without a pause or stop to mission sustainment.” 

During the exercise, these units will form a joint Air Expeditionary Wing in a simulated deployed environment. In addition to the Airmen flying and maintaining the F-35A in daily combat scenarios, the 388th FW will be responsible for integration, support and resources for the “deployed” force.