The US Air National Guard received its first two Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning II stealth fighters at Vermont Air National Guard Base in Burlington on 19 September.
The National Guard typically receives new fighter types later than the active-duty US Air Force (USAF). In this case it is receiving F-35As relatively early compared to its history of aircraft acquisition.
The fighters can improve the USA’s homeland air defences against adversaries such as China and Russia, whose military hardware is increasingly sophisticated and long reaching.
Seven F-35As will arrive in Vermont through 2019, with the base to eventually receive 20 of the fighters, says Lockheed Martin.
The Air National Guard has responsibility for air defence of the USA and its territories. The service mostly operates aging Boeing F-15C/Ds and Lockheed Martin F-16s.
Lockheed’s initial deliveries of F35As to the National Guard come as annual deliveries rates to the USAF, US Marine Corps and US Navy are topping out.
In search of expanding revenue from the programme, Lockheed Martin is pushing international sales of the F-35.
Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning II above Vermont Air National Guard Base in Burlington
The company says it has delivered more than 425 F-35s. It says it has trained more than 890 pilots and 8,230 maintainers.
The company says F-35s are now operating from 19 bases worldwide. It notes that eight countries have F-35s operating from a base on their home soil and seven services have declared the fighter as having Initial Operating Capability.
Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning IIs arrive at Vermont Air National Guard Base in Burlington