158th Fighter Wing conducts F-35 weapons system training for the first time at Fort Drum

  • Published
  • By Michael Strasser, U.S. Army Garrison Fort Drum
  • 158th Fighter Wing

FORT DRUM, N.Y. (June 5, 2020) -- Members of the 158th Fighter Wing of the Vermont Air National Guard took to the skies over Fort Drum this week while training on the F-35 weapons system at Range 48.

Located in South Burlington, Vermont, the 158th Fighter Wing is the first Air National Guard unit to transition from flying F-16s to the F-35 Lightning II aircraft. The pilots have spent months conducting flying operations, and this was their first experience releasing inert training ordnance from their new fighter jets.

“For several pilots, this was their first time employing heavyweight ordnance from an F-35,” said U.S. Air Force Maj. Michael Cady, chief of weapons and tactics for the 134th Fighter Squadron. “We pulled several lessons learned from the employments this week that would not have otherwise been gained if we hadn't been carrying actual munitions.”

The surface attack training was supported by personnel from Fort Drum Range Control and the 174th Operations Group Detachment 1, a New York Air National Guard tenant unit on post.

“Our detachment runs the Adirondack Gunnery and Bombing Range, commonly referred to as ‘Range 48’ at Fort Drum,” said U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Brian Fulmer, 174th Operations Group Detachment 1 commander.
“We manage approximately 4,000 acres of the training area, providing targets for door/aerial gunnery training from rotary-wing assets, as well as targets for fixed-wing assets from all services.”

Fulmer said that the 158th Fighter Wing is one of the primary fixed-wing units that train at Range 48.

“This is due to both proximity to Burlington, and the unique training afforded by the vast military airspace that surrounds Fort Drum – and much larger portions of northern New York,” he said.

“The close proximity of Range 48 to our unit has certainly demonstrated its significant value to our training as we work towards being officially certified for combat missions in the near future,” Cady added.