Tag: Spangdahlem Air Base

Vermont Air National Guard’s F-35s On Their Way To Germany To Support NATO In Eastern Europe

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Vermont Air National Guard’s F-35s On Their Way To Germany To Support NATO In Eastern Europe
A VT ANG F-35A prepares for take off to Spangdahlem AB, Germany, on May 2, 2022. Note the RCS enhancers fitted to the aircraft.

F-35A Lightning II fifth generation aircraft from the Vermont Air National Guard departed to Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany.

At least eight F-35A stealth aircraft, belonging to the 158th Fighter Wing of the U.S. Air Force are currently deploying to Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, to support Enhanced Air Policing mission on NATO’s Eastern Flank. The aircraft launched from their base at Burlington ANGB, Vermont, early on May 2, 2022.

Supported by at least four tankers, the “Green Mountain Boys” of the 158th FW are due replace the F-35A jets belonging to the 388th FW and 419th FW  from Hill Air Force Base, Utah, that have been operating out of Spangdahlem since Feb. 16, 2022. In the beginning, the VT ANG will not completely replace the Hill AFB’s F-35s but they will complement the Hill AFB F-35s as the Lightning II jets of the various active, ANG and Reserve’s jets are expected to operate together from the German base for some weeks.

The images of the F-35As launching from Burlington ANGB, show that the aircraft were fitted with their RCS Enhancers/Radar Reflectors/Luneburg Lenses (as per normal procedure for ferry flights). It will be interesting to understand whether they will operate in “stealth mode” (without radar reflectors/Luneburg lenses) during their patrols over Eastern Europe, as done by the Hill’s F-35s.

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File photo of an F-35A Lightning II pilot assigned to the 134th Fighter Squadron, Vermont Air National Guard, prepares for launch during routine flying operations at the Vermont Air National Guard base, South Burlington, Vermont, (U.S. Air National Guard photo by A1C Jana Somero)

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File photo of an F-35A Lightning II pilot assigned to the 134th Fighter Squadron, Vermont Air National Guard, prepares for launch during routine flying operations at the Vermont Air National Guard base, South Burlington, Vermont, (U.S. Air National Guard photo by A1C Jana Somero)

Airmen from the 158th FW started deploying to Europe aboard an Omni Air International B-767 on Apr. 29, 2022.

“We are proud to send our Airmen to support the collective defense of our allies and partners,” said Army Maj. Gen. Greg Knight, the adjutant general of Vermont in a public release. “This deployment demonstrates some of the strategic capabilities the Vermont Air National Guard can provide to the nation when needed.”

These regular deployments, part of a series of standard U.S. rotations in the European Area of Operations, are part of the U.S. commitment to training and interoperability with our European allies.

“Being called upon only four months out of conversion to an operational F-35 fighter wing is a testament to our team, their professionalism, commitment and proven capabilities,” said Air Force Col. David Shevchik, commander of the 158th Fighter Wing. “It is when we are needed most that we are at our best. The Green Mountain Boys are ready and proud to answer this call, and we’re grateful for the support of our families, employers and communities.”

The one to Europe amidst growing tensions with Russia following the invasion Ukraine, is the first Vermont Air National Guard deployment in 6 years. Previously, flying the F-16 “Viper” (as the aircraft is dubbed in the fighter pilots community) the Wing took part in several deployments in support of the Global War on Terrorism. During 9/11, the Vermont Air National Guard rapidly mobilized to provide area security patrols over New York City, a mission they maintained for over 120 consecutive days. This short-term deployment is conducted in full coordination with host nations and NATO military authorities, and although temporary in nature, they are prudent measures to increase readiness and enhance NATOs collective defense during this period of uncertainty.

The 158th Fighter Wing ceased their F-16C/D Block 30 operations on Apr. 6, 2019, after flying the jet for 33 years. The first F-35A in 158th FW markings (AF17-5265) made its first flight from Lockheed Martin Ft. Worth facility, Texas, on Jul. 31, 2019. The first two ANG F-35A aircraft landed at their home in Burlington ANGB, Vermont, on Sept. 19, 2019.

About David Cenciotti
David Cenciotti is a freelance journalist based in Rome, Italy. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviationist”, one of the world’s most famous and read military aviation blogs. Since 1996, he has written for major worldwide magazines, including Air Forces Monthly, Combat Aircraft, and many others, covering aviation, defense, war, industry, intelligence, crime and cyberwar. He has reported from the U.S., Europe, Australia and Syria, and flown several combat planes with different air forces. He is a former 2nd Lt. of the Italian Air Force, a private pilot and a graduate in Computer Engineering. He has written five books and contributed to many more ones.

The U.S. Air Force will relocate the 480th Fighter Squadron from Spangdahlem Air Base to Aviano Air Base

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A 480th FS F-16 during exercise Iniochos 2019 in Greece (Image credit: David Cenciotti).

As you may already know, the United States are planning to drastically reduce military personnel currently stationed in Germany. Among the units affected by the reductions we can find the 480th Fighter Squadron “Warhawks” of the 52nd Fighter Wing at Spangdahlem Air Base. The unit will in fact move its 28 F-16CM-50s to Aviano Air Base in Italy, where they will join the 510th FS “Buzzards” and 555th “Triple Nickel” of the 31st FW, flying the F-16CM-40.

The move was announced by Defense Secretary Mark Esper on July 29, 2020 during a joint briefing with the Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. John Hyten, and Gen. Tod D. Wolters, commander of the U.S. European Command and NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR). According to Esper about 12000 troops will move out of Germany starting from the next weeks, with 6400 of those returning to the US, leaving only 24000 troops in the country.

The 100th Air Refueling Wing and 352nd Special Operations Wing were scheduled to relocate to Ramstein and Spangdahlem respectively in the near future, prompting the closure of their current homebase RAF Mildenhall, but now this relocation has been canceled and both units will remain in the UK. Ramstein Air Base will not undergo any additional changes. Initially the 480th FS was rumored to be relocating to Poland, but this was never confirmed.

A 480th Fighter Squadron F-16 Fighting Falcon taxis on the flightline at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, May 28, 2020. The aircraft flew in from Spangdahlem Air Base to participate in Agile Combat Employment exercise. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Alison Stewart)

Esper was quoted saying during the briefing “It is important to note that in NATO’s 71-year history, the size, composition and disposition of U.S. forces in Europe has changed many times. As we’ve entered a new era of great-power competition we are now at another inflection point in NATO’s history. I am confident the alliance will be all the better and stronger for it.”

According to the Department of Defense, the relocation of the troops is also a further implementation of the dynamic force employment that would see units abandoning permanent bases, vulnerable to attacks, and be ready to quickly deploy where needed. Periodically, unit based both in Germany and in the US will continue to deploy to different locations in Europe, a move also dictated by the National Defense Strategy to counter Russia (as in this case) and China.

Along with the Warhawks, ground units and command centers are being moved as well: among those we can find the 2nd Cavalry Regiment (a brigade-sized Stryker infantry and cavalry unit), US European Command (EUCOM), US Africa Command (AFRICOM), Special Operations Command-Europe and Special Operations Command-Africa.