Three-nation F-35 exercise demonstrates air power interoperability

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A U.S. Air Force pilot from the 4th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron enters the cockpit of an F-35A Lightning II before Exercise Tri-Lightning June 25, 2019, at Al Dhafra Air Base, United Arab Emirates. This exercise is intended to enhance capability and interoperability among the U.S. Air Force, Royal Air Force and Israeli Air Force. This is the first-ever exercise where the three nations are conducting aviation training with the same airframe at the same time. (Air Force photograph by Staff Sgt. Chris Thornbury)

F-35 Lightning II fighter aircraft from the United States, United Kingdom and Israel participated in Exercise Tri-Lightning over the Eastern Mediterranean Sea, June 25, 2019.

Tri-Lightning was a one-day defensive counter air exercise involving friendly and adversary aircraft from the three participating countries, and consisted of active and passive air defense operations.

This exercise is a demonstration of the interoperability between the U.S., U.K., and Israel using the F-35A, F-35B, and F-35I respectively.

“We build capacity with our strategic partners to harness our air component’s capabilities and skills,” said Lt. Gen. Joseph T. Guastella, U.S. Air Forces Central Command commander. “The transatlantic strategic relationship between the U.S. and our allies and partners has been forged over the past seven decades, and is built on a foundation of shared values, experience and vision.”

The U.S. Air Force F-35As flew from Al Dhafra Air Base, U.A.E., the Royal Air Force F-35Bs flew from RAF Akrotiri, Cyprus, and the Israeli Air Force F-35Is flew from Nevatim Air Base, Israel.

U.S. Air Force F-35A Lightning IIs, center, lead a formation of Israeli Air Force F-35I, right, and Royal Air Force F-35B, left, during Exercise Tri-Lightning over the Eastern Mediterranean Sea, June 25, 2019. Tri-Lightning is a defensive counter air exercise involving the U.S., U.K. and Israel. The exercise is designed to improve interoperability and coordination in air operations among the U.S. and its partners. (Air Force photograph by Staff Sgt. Keifer Bowes)

“Tri-Lightning was an exercise which had been planned for months, and it provided an outstanding opportunity for the squadron to operate and learn from our fellow F-35 community,” said U.K. Wing Commander John Butcher, Squadron 617 commanding officer. “In addition it allowed us to share and gain valuable experience that we will be able to exploit during future training and potentially operational deployments, whether embedded on the Queen Elizabeth or from overseas airbases.”

The F-35s from the three nations played as primary friendly, or blue, force players in this exercise while a variety of other aircraft played the aggressor roles, simulating realistic combat situations between the advanced F-35s and previous generation fighters.

“The exercise today reflects the close cooperation between the participating nations, said Brig. Gen. Amnon Ein-Dar, Israel Chief of Air Staff. “This training opportunity between Israel, the U.S. and Britain, strengthens shared capabilities and overall cooperation amongst allies.”