Women and men of the 158th Fighter Wing train at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, returning to Vermont in late March. Members, aircraft and support equipment departed this week for a training event known as Southern Lightning. Over 100 airmen from primarily Maintenance and Operations Groups will fly and maintain F-35 operations throughout the training period, developing their readiness while off-station.
“This is the first opportunity to take aircraft, equipment and personnel and practice in a new environment,” said Lt. Col. Ernest Tomasi, 158th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron commander. “We are going to capitalize on our training and lessons learned and continue to improve our processes to be ready with the F-35.”
The Vermont Air National Guard received its first two F-35 Lightning II aircraft in September 2019, and now has seven assigned to the 158th Fighter Wing. The full complement of 20 aircraft is scheduled to arrive in Vermont by summer. As renovations to remaining flight line facilities continue and additional scheduled aircraft arrive in Vermont, the decision to conduct off-station training was planned in advance to support flying requirements and maintain conversion timelines. Local F-35 flying operations will continue at the 158th Fighter Wing during Southern Lightning training.
The United States Air National Guard ushered in a new era of air power capability as its first to stealth jets F-35s, AF17-5265 and AF17-5266, arrived at the Vermont Air National Guard Base in Burlington in September 2019. The F-35As’ arrival represents the first time the Guard has received new production fighter jets of any kind in recent history.
158th Fighter Wing
The 158th Fighter Wing, located in South Burlington, Vermont, is the first Air National Guard unit to receive the U.S. Air Force’s fifth-generation fighter, the F-35 Lightning II. The Vermont Air National Guard, federally recognized in August of 1946 with the 134th Fighter Squadron, remains a premier fighter wing ready to serve the citizens of the state of Vermont and nation when called upon. The Vermont ANG ceased their F-16C/D Block 30 operations on Apr. 6, 2019, after flying the “Viper”for 33 years. The F-35 Lightning II marks the ninth mission aircraft that the Green Mountain Boys will receive, maintain and fly, providing readiness to the total force for several decades to come. This arrival marks a significant time in the Green Mountain Boys’ history and the future of Air National Guard and Air Force missions.