HILL AIR FORCE BASE, Utah — As tensions increase along the Ukraine and Russia border, Utah's Hill Air Force Base has deployed Airmen and F-35s to neighboring Germany. The support comes from the base's active duty 388th and Reserve 419th Fighter Wing.
F-35A Lightning II fighter jets, along with personnel from the base arrived in Spangdahlem on Wednesday to enhance NATOs collective defensive posture along with Allied and Partner nations, according to base officials.
“Kind of like NFL players, [Airmen] want to get in the game. They scrimmage and they get ready and they practice and they roll and they go play in the big game. That’s exactly like the feeling that was here when we were getting folks out the door on this trip,” said Col. Matt Fritz, commander of the Reserve 419th Fighter Wing.
Airforce personnel describe F-35A Lightning IIs as the most advanced fighter aircrafts.
“It combines advanced technology, advanced sensors, avionics, sensor fusion to provide capabilities that no other aircraft in the world privdes,” said Col. Craig Andrle, 388th Fighter Wing commander.
The 388th Fighter Wing out of Hill is the Air Force's first active duty combat-capable F-35A Lightning unit.
“The deployment of U.S. F-35As to Spangdahlem Air Base increases the defensive posture of the NATO Alliance and enhances our ability to operate together,” said Gen. Jeff Harrigian, Commander U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces Africa and Commander Allied Air Command. “We are facing a dynamic environment and this deployment significantly enhances our support to NATO’s defenses.”
University of Utah assistant professor of political science Geoff Allen told FOX 13 News that he is hopeful U.S. military presence can help deter the situation.
“It would be incredibly costly for Putin in a way that I don’t think it would make sense for him. But conflict is never entirely rational, so it could happen still,” Allen said.
He said the United States’ involvement is more to support NATO and less for the actual country of Ukraine.
“The troop movements that we have operating in eastern Europe are more to reassure our allies in that space in the Baltic countries and Poland and central Europe that if push comes to shove, we will defend them,” he said.
Regardless of where conflict between Ukraine and Russia goes, Andrle is confident Hill Air Force Base troops know what to do.
“We train to this,” he said. “But when we do it for real, it’s been the most rewarding part of my career to see the team pack up the cargo, get ready to get out the door and move the jets over to Spangdahlem.”
A predicted Russian invasion of Ukraine did not occur Wednesday, but the Associated Press reports the United States and its allies maintain that the threat remains strong, with Europe’s security and economic stability in the balance.