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F-35s Arrive at McEntire

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Ashleigh Pavelek
  • 169th Fighter Wing/Public Affairs
The South Carolina Air National Guard welcomed two F-35A Lightning II fighter jets on its runway for the first time, March 21st and 22nd.

The F-35A fighter pilots, assigned to the 33rd Fighter Wing at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, arrived to perform fourth and fifth generation integration fighter training with F-16 pilots assigned to the 169th Fighter Wing.

"Integration tactics for the F-16 and F-35 are still being developed, so regular joint training as well as access to our electronic ranges is mutually beneficial," said Lt. Col. Michael Ferarrio, a 17-year fighter pilot and program manager for the 169th FW. "As leaders of the SEAD (Suppression of Enemy Air Defenses) community, the SCANG has a very high interest in helping develop tactics with our newest SEAD asset, the F-35."

The term, generation, refers to an aircraft in relation to the design of its airframe. When the construction of the frame is changed on an aircraft, it signifies the beginning of a new generation. The Air Force's fourth generation aircraft include the F-15 Eagle and Strike Eagle and F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter jets and fifth generation aircraft include the F-22 Raptor and the F-35A Lightning II.

In the future, the F-16 and F-35 will work together to provide SEAD and DEAD (Destruction of Enemy Air Defenses) for the Combat Air Forces. Joint training is critical to ensure that combatant commanders get assets and pilots that are ready to operate together at a moment's notice.

"The benefit here at McEntire is that we have the greatest depth of experience in the SEAD/DEAD mission here between the pilots and the maintainers," said Ferrario. "The biggest benefit to the Air Force as a whole is to be able to transfer that experience to the latest airframe."

This wasn't the first time working with the F-35A for one crew chief here. Tech. Sgt. Lee Kassay, assigned to the 169th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, had the opportunity to work with this aircraft on a recent temporary deployment. 

"Their pilots were very impressed that we knew something about the F-35," said Kassay. "All of the crew chiefs here are very knowledgeable, so it is easy to teach them and they are willing to learn."

McEntire JNGB is looking forward to the future and is posturing for the potential of receiving the F-35. Upgrades to facilities, along with runway and taxiway improvements have been accomplished that would make the transition from F-16s to F-35s a simple process. The 169 FW is poised to receive the latest in advanced fighter technology, the F-35 Lightning II.