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F-35A completes largest deployment to date

An F-16 Fighting Falcon, E-3 Sentry, F-35A Lightning II, F/A-18 Super Hornet and an EA-18 Growler are set up in a static display Aug. 29, 2016, during Exercise Northern Lightning at Volk Field, Wis. Northern Lightning allowed all five of these aircraft the opportunity integrate and operate in a joint environment while performing counter air, suppression and destruction of enemy air defense and close air support in a contested environment. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Stormy Archer)

An F-16 Fighting Falcon, E-3 Sentry, F-35A Lightning II, F/A-18 Super Hornet and an EA-18 Growler are set up in a static display Aug. 29, 2016, during Exercise Northern Lightning at Volk Field, Wis. Northern Lightning allowed all five of these aircraft the opportunity integrate and operate in a joint environment while performing counter air, suppression and destruction of enemy air defense and close air support in a contested environment. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Stormy Archer)

A U.S. Air Force F-35A Lighting II, F-16C Fighting Falcon and a U.S. Navy F/A-18F Super Hornet fly in formation during Exercise Northern Lighting Aug. 31, 2016. Northern Lightning is a tactical-level, joint training exercise that emphasizes fifth and fourth generation assets engaged in a contested, degraded environment. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. DeAndre Curtiss)

A U.S. Air Force F-35A Lighting II, F-16C Fighting Falcon and a U.S. Navy F/A-18F Super Hornet fly in formation during Exercise Northern Lighting Aug. 31, 2016. Northern Lightning is a tactical-level, joint training exercise that emphasizes fifth and fourth generation assets engaged in a contested, degraded environment. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. DeAndre Curtiss)

A U.S. Air Force F-35A Lighting II, F-16C Fighting Falcon and a U.S. Navy F/A-18F Super Hornet fly in formation during Exercise Northern Lighting Aug. 31, 2016. Northern Lightning is a tactical-level, joint training exercise that emphasizes fifth and fourth generation assets engaged in a contested, degraded environment. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. DeAndre Curtiss)

A U.S. Air Force F-35A Lighting II, F-16C Fighting Falcon and a U.S. Navy F/A-18F Super Hornet fly in formation during Exercise Northern Lighting Aug. 31, 2016. Northern Lightning is a tactical-level, joint training exercise that emphasizes fifth and fourth generation assets engaged in a contested, degraded environment. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. DeAndre Curtiss)

A 33rd Fighter Wing F-35A Lighting II approaches a 126th Air Refueling Wing KC-135 Stratotanker to refuel during Exercise Northern Lighting Aug. 31, 2016. Northern Lightning is a tactical-level, joint training exercise that emphasizes fifth and fourth generation assets engaged in a contested, degraded environment. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. DeAndre Curtiss)

A 33rd Fighter Wing F-35A Lighting II approaches a 126th Air Refueling Wing KC-135 Stratotanker to refuel during Exercise Northern Lighting Aug. 31, 2016. Northern Lightning is a tactical-level, joint training exercise that emphasizes fifth and fourth generation assets engaged in a contested, degraded environment. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. DeAndre Curtiss)

33rd Fighter Wing F-35As taxi down the flightline at Volk Field, Wis. during Northern Lightning Aug. 22, 2016. Northern Lightning is a tactical-level, joint training exercise that emphasizes fifth and fourth generation assets engaged in a contested, degraded environment. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Stormy Archer)

33rd Fighter Wing F-35As taxi down the flightline at Volk Field, Wis. during Northern Lightning Aug. 22, 2016. Northern Lightning is a tactical-level, joint training exercise that emphasizes fifth and fourth generation assets engaged in a contested, degraded environment. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Stormy Archer)

A 33rd Fighter Wing F-35A lands at Volk Field, Wis. Aug. 23, 2016, during Northern Lightning. Northern Lightning is a tactical-level, joint training exercise that emphasizes fifth and fourth generation assets engaged in a contested, degraded environment. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Stormy Archer)

A 33rd Fighter Wing F-35A lands at Volk Field, Wis. Aug. 23, 2016, during Northern Lightning. Northern Lightning is a tactical-level, joint training exercise that emphasizes fifth and fourth generation assets engaged in a contested, degraded environment. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Stormy Archer)

132nd Electronic Attack Squadron EA-18 Growlers and 33rd Fighter Wing F-35As taxi down the flightline during Northern Lightning Aug. 22, 2016, at Volk Field, Wis. Northern Lightning is a tactical-level, joint training exercise that emphasizes fifth and fourth generation assets engaged in a contested, degraded environment. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Stormy Archer)

132nd Electronic Attack Squadron EA-18 Growlers and 33rd Fighter Wing F-35As taxi down the flightline during Northern Lightning Aug. 22, 2016, at Volk Field, Wis. Northern Lightning is a tactical-level, joint training exercise that emphasizes fifth and fourth generation assets engaged in a contested, degraded environment. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Stormy Archer)

An F-35A and an FA-18 Super Hornet fly in formation over Volk Field Wis. during Northern Lightning, Aug. 23, 2016. Northern Lightning is a tactical-level, joint training exercise that emphasizes fifth and fourth generation assets engaged in a contested, degraded environment. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Stormy Archer)

An F-35A and an FA-18 Super Hornet fly in formation over Volk Field Wis. during Northern Lightning, Aug. 23, 2016. Northern Lightning is a tactical-level, joint training exercise that emphasizes fifth and fourth generation assets engaged in a contested, degraded environment. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Stormy Archer)

Lt. Col. Andrew Faulkner, 33rd Fighter Wing F-35A pilot, prepares to take off in an F-35A Aug. 26, 2016, during exercise Northern Lightning at Volk Field, Wis. Northern Lightning is a joint total force exercise between the Air National Guard, Air Force and Navy conducting offensive counter air, suppression and destruction of enemy air defense and close air support. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Stormy Archer)

Lt. Col. Andrew Faulkner, 33rd Fighter Wing F-35A pilot, prepares to take off in an F-35A Aug. 26, 2016, during exercise Northern Lightning at Volk Field, Wis. Northern Lightning is a joint total force exercise between the Air National Guard, Air Force and Navy conducting offensive counter air, suppression and destruction of enemy air defense and close air support. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Stormy Archer)

Airman 1st Class Derek Leuzinger, 33rd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron assistant dedicated crew chief, prepares to launch an F-35A during exercise Northern Lightning Aug. 26, 2016, at Volk Field, Wis. Northern Lightning is a joint total force exercise between the Air National Guard, Air Force and Navy conducting offensive counter air, suppression and destruction of enemy air defense and close air support. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Stormy Archer)
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Airman 1st Class Derek Leuzinger, 33rd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron assistant dedicated crew chief, prepares to launch an F-35A during exercise Northern Lightning Aug. 26, 2016, at Volk Field, Wis. Northern Lightning is a joint total force exercise between the Air National Guard, Air Force and Navy conducting offensive counter air, suppression and destruction of enemy air defense and close air support. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Stormy Archer)

33rd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron crew chiefs greet 33rd Fighter Wing pilots as they step to their jets during exercise Northern Lightning Aug. 26, 2016, at Volk Field, Wis. Northern Lightning is a joint total force exercise between the Air National Guard, Air Force and Navy conducting offensive counter air, suppression and destruction of enemy air defense and close air support. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Stormy Archer)
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33rd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron crew chiefs greet 33rd Fighter Wing pilots as they step to their jets during exercise Northern Lightning Aug. 26, 2016, at Volk Field, Wis. Northern Lightning is a joint total force exercise between the Air National Guard, Air Force and Navy conducting offensive counter air, suppression and destruction of enemy air defense and close air support. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Stormy Archer)

An 11th Strike Fighter Squadron FA-18F Super Hornet lands at Volk Field, Wis. Aug. 22, 2016, during Northern Lightning. Northern Lightning is a tactical-level, joint training exercise that emphasizes fifth and fourth generation assets engaged in a contested, degraded environment. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Stormy Archer)
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An 11th Strike Fighter Squadron FA-18F Super Hornet lands at Volk Field, Wis. Aug. 22, 2016, during Northern Lightning. Northern Lightning is a tactical-level, joint training exercise that emphasizes fifth and fourth generation assets engaged in a contested, degraded environment. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Stormy Archer)

A 132nd Electronic Attack Squadron EA-18 Growler taxis down the flighline at Volk Field, Wis. during Northern Lightning Aug. 22, 2016. Northern Lightning is a tactical-level, joint training exercise that emphasizes fifth and fourth generation assets engaged in a contested, degraded environment. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Stormy Archer)
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A 132nd Electronic Attack Squadron EA-18 Growler taxis down the flighline at Volk Field, Wis. during Northern Lightning Aug. 22, 2016. Northern Lightning is a tactical-level, joint training exercise that emphasizes fifth and fourth generation assets engaged in a contested, degraded environment. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Stormy Archer)

58th Aircraft Maintenance Unit weapons load crew members assemble a GBU-12 during Exercise Northern Lightning Aug. 30, 2016, at Volk Field, Wis. Northern Lightning is a joint total force exercise between the Air National Guard, Air Force and Navy conducting offensive counter air, suppression and destruction of enemy air defense and close air support. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Stormy Archer)
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58th Aircraft Maintenance Unit weapons load crew members assemble a GBU-12 during Exercise Northern Lightning Aug. 30, 2016, at Volk Field, Wis. Northern Lightning is a joint total force exercise between the Air National Guard, Air Force and Navy conducting offensive counter air, suppression and destruction of enemy air defense and close air support. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Stormy Archer)

58th Aircraft Maintenance Unit weapons load crew members unload a GBU-12 from an F-35A during exercise Northern Lightning Aug. 31, 2016, at Volk Field, Wis. During the exercise, 33rd FW pilots were able to execute offensive counter air, suppression of enemy air defenses, destruction of enemy air defenses, and the employ GPS-guided munitions  for close air support. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Stormy Archer)
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58th Aircraft Maintenance Unit weapons load crew members unload a GBU-12 from an F-35A during exercise Northern Lightning Aug. 31, 2016, at Volk Field, Wis. During the exercise, 33rd FW pilots were able to execute offensive counter air, suppression of enemy air defenses, destruction of enemy air defenses, and the employ GPS-guided munitions for close air support. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Stormy Archer)

A 33rd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron Airman performs a maintenance inspection on an F-35A during Exercise Northern Lightning Aug. 30, 2016, at Volk Field, Wis. Northern Lightning is a joint total force exercise between the Air National Guard, Air Force and Navy conducting offensive counter air, suppression and destruction of enemy air defense and close air support. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Stormy Archer)
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A 33rd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron Airman performs a maintenance inspection on an F-35A during Exercise Northern Lightning Aug. 30, 2016, at Volk Field, Wis. Northern Lightning is a joint total force exercise between the Air National Guard, Air Force and Navy conducting offensive counter air, suppression and destruction of enemy air defense and close air support. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Stormy Archer)

33rd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron Airmen perform a maintenance inspection on an F-35A during Exercise Northern Lightning Aug. 30, 2016, at Volk Field, Wis. Northern Lightning is a joint total force exercise between the Air National Guard, Air Force and Navy conducting offensive counter air, suppression and destruction of enemy air defense and close air support. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Stormy Archer)
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33rd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron Airmen perform a maintenance inspection on an F-35A during Exercise Northern Lightning Aug. 30, 2016, at Volk Field, Wis. Northern Lightning is a joint total force exercise between the Air National Guard, Air Force and Navy conducting offensive counter air, suppression and destruction of enemy air defense and close air support. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Stormy Archer)

Lt. Col. Brad Bashore, 58th Fighter Squadron commander, steps to his jet during exercise Northern Lightning Aug. 26, 2016, at Volk Field, Wis. Northern Lightning is a joint total force exercise between the Air National Guard, Air Force and Navy conducting offensive counter air, suppression and destruction of enemy air defense and close air support. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Stormy Archer)
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Lt. Col. Brad Bashore, 58th Fighter Squadron commander, steps to his jet during exercise Northern Lightning Aug. 26, 2016, at Volk Field, Wis. Northern Lightning is a joint total force exercise between the Air National Guard, Air Force and Navy conducting offensive counter air, suppression and destruction of enemy air defense and close air support. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Stormy Archer)

Lt. Col. Brad Bashore, 58th Fighter Squadron commander, prepares to take off in an F-35A during exercise Northern Lightning Aug. 26, 2016, at Volk Field, Wis. Northern Lightning is a joint total force exercise between the Air National Guard, Air Force and Navy conducting offensive counter air, suppression and destruction of enemy air defense and close air support. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Stormy Archer)
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Lt. Col. Brad Bashore, 58th Fighter Squadron commander, prepares to take off in an F-35A during exercise Northern Lightning Aug. 26, 2016, at Volk Field, Wis. Northern Lightning is a joint total force exercise between the Air National Guard, Air Force and Navy conducting offensive counter air, suppression and destruction of enemy air defense and close air support. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Stormy Archer)

33rd Fighter Wing Airmen board a C-17 Globemaster III Aug. 19, 2016, at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. The C-17 transported 33rd FW members to Volk Field, Wis. to take part in Northern Lightning, a tactical-level, joint training exercise that emphasizes fifth and fourth generation assets engaged in a contested, degraded environment. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Stormy Archer)
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33rd Fighter Wing Airmen board a C-17 Globemaster III Aug. 19, 2016, at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. The C-17 transported 33rd FW members to Volk Field, Wis. to take part in Northern Lightning, a tactical-level, joint training exercise that emphasizes fifth and fourth generation assets engaged in a contested, degraded environment. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Stormy Archer)

Volk Field, Wis. --

The 33rd Fighter Wing wrapped up the largest F-35 deployment to date at this year’s Exercise Northern Lightning Aug. 31 at Volk Field, Wis.

Northern Lightning is a tactical-level, joint training exercise which serves as a combat rehearsal for both legacy and modern aerial and ground assets in a contested, degraded environment.

The 33rd FW deployed over 150 personnel and 14 F-35As for two weeks to train to a realistic threat level and develop how to deploy and sustain a squadron of F-35s.

The Air Force announced the fighter jet was initially capable of combat operations in August of this year. With the service’s shift in focus to full operational capability for the aircraft, the lessons learned from this exercise will shape future real-world deployments of F-35A squadrons.

“The aircraft and enterprise still has some maturing left to do," said Lt. Col. Brad Bashore, 58th Fighter Squadron commander. "With as capable as the F-35A is already though, that should be a scary thought for our adversaries. Performance during the exercise displays that the aircraft is combat ready, even in its infancy.”

The 33rd FW scored over 110 kills against “enemy aircraft,” supported a surge of 138 sorties and dropped 24 GBU-12 bombs during Northern Lightning.

During the exercise, 33rd FW pilots were able to execute offensive counter air, suppression of enemy air defenses, destruction of enemy air defenses, and employ GPS-guided munitions for close air support.

“This exercise has increased my confidence in the F-35,” Capt. Mark Schnell, 33rd FW pilot said. “Believing that you are invisible is hard. (But) to come out and fly against fourth-generation assets and really see that the stealth capabilities of the F-35 are as advertised has been awesome. It makes our job easier knowing that we are (stealthy), and we can arrive at a position of advantage without (our adversary) knowing.”

Crews from the 33rd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron were able to support operational demands of the exercise by executing high-tempo maintenance operations, and preparing aircraft to drop munitions in a deployed location with less manning and resources than afforded to them at home station.

This is the first time the program has supported such an extensive aircraft deployment,” 1st Lt. Krista Wooden, 33rd AMXS Aircraft Maintenance Unit assistant officer in charge, said. “We were able to simulate a deployed priority on our supply system, (and) successfully gauge the logistics of how a deployment will successfully run its course.”

The F-35A pilots practiced joint operations with F-16 Fighting Falcons, F/A-18 Super Hornets, E/A-18 Growlers and E-3 Sentries to create a more lethal and survivable strike package. The experience gained from deploying as a total force will shape how the units work together in future combat operations.

“Working with the F-35A really provides a unique capability for us,” Capt. Austin Kennedy, E/A-18 Growler electronic warfare officer, said. “They allow us the opportunity to train against more advanced threats that a fourth-generation aircraft wouldn’t be able to go after.

“The (low observable) characteristics of the jet make our jamming more effective, and it makes it easier for us to do our job.”

The dynamic threat environment of the 115th Fighter Wing’s Northern Lightning exercise provides a unique training ground for the fifth generation fighter with surface to air threats, a large air space that extends up to 50,000 feet, inter-service training and an expansive range for live and inert weapons drops.

“Thanks to the Air National Guard, and their herculean efforts to make this exercise happen,” said Lt. Col. Brad Bashore, 58th FS commander, said. “Thank you to the Duluth and Madison Guard for being our adversaries during this exercise. It’s not always fun being red air and flying against us when you’re at a disadvantage. We couldn’t have done this without you.”

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