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​F-35A Lightning IIs, piloted by the 388th and 419th Fighter Wings, prepare to depart Hill AFB, Utah, Jan. 20, 2017, for Nellis AFB, Nev., to participate in exercise Red Flag. Air Force photo by R. Nial Bradshaw.

​The F-35A strike fighter deployed to Nellis AFB, Nev., on Jan. 20 for its Red Flag debut, during which it also completed the first large movement since the fifth generation fighter was declared combat ready in August 2016. Pilots and maintainers with the Active Duty 388th Fighter Wing and Air Force Reserve 419th FW from Hill AFB, Utah, deployed with the jets, which will be at Red Flag through Feb. 10. During the exercise, the F-35s will fly with both fourth and fifth generation aircraft and will “provide offensive and defensive counter air, suppression of enemy air defenses, and limited close air support,” states the Jan. 23 release. “This battle space is going to be a great place to leverage our stealth and interoperability. It’s a lethal platform and I’m confident we will prove to be an invaluable asset to the commander,” said Col. David Lyons, the 388th FW commander, in the release. Hill Air Force Base received its first operational F-35As in October 2015. The base is slated to receive a total of 78 strike fighters by the end of 2019.