301st Fighter Wing Final F-16 Deployment, Prepares for New Era with F-35

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Nije Hightower
  • 301st Fighter Wing

301st Fighter Wing members and a number of F-16 Fighting Falcons deployed to U.S. Central Command’s (CENTCOM) area of operations in early April.

This mission will mark the end of an era for the F-16 aircraft, as 301 FW Reserve Citizen Airmen and personnel from its active associate, the 24th Fighter Squadron, provide air operations for CENTCOM operations.

According to Col. Benjamin Harrison, 301 FW commander, this deployment is a bittersweet moment for the wing. "The F-16 has been the backbone of our operations for decades, and it's sad to see it go," he said. "But at the same time, we're excited for the new opportunities that lie ahead."

In 2021, the 301 FW was selected to become Air Force Reserve Command’s first ever F-35A Lighting II unit to own, maintain, and operate the platform in the major command’s history. The F-35A is the U.S. Air Force’s latest fifth-generation fighter and will provide next-generation stealth, enhanced situational awareness, and reduced vulnerability for the U.S. and allied nations.

"The F-35 is a game-changer," said Harrison. "It's a highly capable aircraft that will give us a significant advantage. We're looking forward to getting our first aircraft and employing it as needed in defense of our nation."

In 2024, the wing is slated to replace its F-16s with the arrival of its first F-35. As part of this transition, pilots and maintainers have undergone intensive training to ensure they are fully prepared to operate and maintain the new platform.

"We've been working hard to get ready for the F-35," said Harrison. "Our pilots and maintainers have put in a lot of time and effort to make sure we're ready to make the switch. We're confident that we'll be able to make a seamless transition to the F-35 and continue to provide the same level of excellence that our unit is known for."

As the 301 FW prepares for the future, the 301 FW deploys one last time with the F-16 which has served as a reliable workhorse for the wing since 1992. This aircraft will continue to play a crucial role around the globe. Upon completion of this deployment the wing’s attention will turn to the imminent arrival of the F-35, which marks a new chapter in airpower for the unit. With this state-of-the-art platform, the wing will continue to defend the United States and fulfill its mission to train and deploy combat-ready airmen.

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