With closures at schools across the nation due to COVID-19, the 419th Fighter Wing invited students to use their computers or cellphones to “visit” for a virtual field trip to see the Air Force’s newest fighter, the F-35 Lightning II. Col. Brian Silkey, the wing’s vice commander and longtime fighter pilot, recorded a video for the wing’s Facebook page and YouTube channel.
“We wanted to do a little something for America’s students during this difficult and uncertain time,” Silkey said. “We thought it would be fun to use the technology we have at our fingertips to bring the F-35 to them. Ultimately, we want them to know we’re all in this together and we hope that some are inspired to follow their dreams to serve in the U.S. military.”
During the virtual field trip, Silkey provided an overview of the aircraft’s capabilities to his online audience to include details on its stealth technology and how it gives pilots a significant advantage on the battlefield. He also showed off his G-suit and futuristic helmet.
Members of the 419th FW and their active-duty counterparts in the 388th FW are currently the only combat-capable F-35 units in the Air Force. Even amid the coronavirus pandemic, the wings are sustaining mission-essential flying operations with limited manning to maintain readiness. Several hundred personnel from the wings are deployed to the Middle East.
In addition to its F-35 mission, the 419th FW also has a full-spectrum mission support group to include civil engineering, security forces, medial, logistics, aerial port, firefighting, supply and transportation. The unit is made up of about 1,300 Reserve Citizen Airmen who serve part-time in the military, but are full-time members of the local community.