158th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
Airmen, aircraft and support equipment departed this week for a training event known as Southern Lightning at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, and are scheduled to return in late March.
Over 100 Airmen, primarily from the 158th Maintenance Group and the 158th Operations Group, will fly and maintain F-35A Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter operations throughout the training period, developing their readiness while off-station.
“This is the first opportunity to take aircraft, equipment and personnel and practice in a new environment,” said Lt. Col. Ernest Tomasi, 158th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron commander. “We are going to capitalize on our training and lessons learned and continue to improve our processes to be ready with the F-35.”
The Vermont Air National Guard received its first two F-35 Lightning II aircraft in September 2019, and now has seven assigned to the 158th Fighter Wing. The full complement of 20 aircraft is scheduled to arrive in Vermont by summer.
As renovations to remaining flight line facilities continue and additional scheduled aircraft arrive in Vermont, the decision to conduct off-station training was planned in advance to support flying requirements and maintain conversion timelines.
Local F-35 flying operations will continue at the 158th Fighter Wing during Southern Lightning training.