The Air Force is reporting that the F-35A made an excellent debut at its first Red Flag exercise. Red Flag 17-1 took place at Nellis AFB, Las Vegas, Nevada, from January 23rd to February 10th.

Thirteen F-35A stealth fighters from the 388th Fighter Wing and Reserve 419th Fighter Wing from Hill AFB, Utah participated along with F-22s, B-1Bs, F-15s, F-16s, and other aircraft. Aircraft from the United Kingdom and Australia also participated in this Red Flag event.

Watch: Red Flag 17-1 Takeoffs & Landings


The biggest takeaway for F-35 pilots was an increase in situational awareness, said Lt. Col. George Watkins, commander of the 34th Fighter Squadron. Young pilots in debriefings immediately “talked about how much situational awareness they had” in a threat environment, including a “god’s eye view” of the battle space.

“Situational awareness is king,” said Col. David Lyons, commander of the 388th Fighter Wing. “Everybody’s SA is improved when the F-35 is on the battlefield.”

This, coupled with the low observable technology, “makes us exponentially more survivable,” Watkins said.

Throughout the two-week exercise, F-35s flew at a mission capable rate of more than 90 percent and no specific maintenance issue arose, said 1st Lt. Devin Ferguson, with the 388th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron. – Air Force Magazine