The last time it did so was back in May, during such a routine readiness exercise. As usual, and as clearly shown in the images from the drill the U.S. Air Force (USAF) recently released, the sight was impressive.
An impossible-to-count number of fourth- and fifth-generation fighter aircraft are lined up on the runaway of the Alaska base, all suited and geared up as if war was imminent. Of the two breeds of aircraft though, one clearly stands out more than the other, including in terms of numbers: the F-35.
The 354th Fighter Wing fields one of the largest F-35 fleets. A total of 54 such beasts are deployed in its pilots’ hands, with the latest units entering service earlier this year. Pilots get to play with them above the world’s largest training range, the 67,000 square miles (174,000 square km) Joint Pacific Alaskan Range Complex (JPARC).
“Our location is a big asset,” said Col. David Berkland, 354th FW commander back when the readiness exercise was held.
“We’re able to provide world-class training because of our proximity to the Joint Pacific Alaska Range Complex, and we can support the projection of all kinds of aircraft, including our permanently-stationed F-35s and other strategic airpower, all over the world. We are ready to answer the call.”