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85th Fighter Group reactivates at Ebbing ANGB for F-35A FMS mission

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Christopher Sherlock
  • 33rd Fighter Wing

The 33rd Fighter Wing reactivated the 85th Fighter Group and 57th Fighter Squadron and simultaneously deactivated Detachment 1 during a ceremony here July 2.

Col. Nicholas Ihde assumed command of the 85th FG and Lt. Col. Jonathan Hassell assumed command of the 57th FS during the ceremony, marking an important step forward to the unit’s efforts to build early operational capability for countries participating in the F-35A and Republic of Singapore Air Force F-16 FMS process.

“In an age of long-term strategic competition, it is vital we strengthen bonds with our allies and partners to sharpen our competitive edge, secure common interests, and promote shared values,” Ihde said. “We’re deeply committed to ensuring our allies and partners have the capabilities they need to deter aggression and to increase stability and the activation allows us to begin the build up to full-time F-35 FMS training operations.”

After Ebbing ANGB was chosen as the F-35 Foreign Military Sales training center in March 2023, Det. 1 stood up the FMS program integration office to handle on-site unit standup coordination and tasks in advance of flying operations. Those duties have shifted to the 85th FG.  

As the build-up to operations begin, people around Ebbing will see F-35A aircraft on the ground and in the air in mid-September as part of an Agile Combat Employment exercise. ACE is an operational concept adopted by the United States Air Force to enhance its ability to project airpower in a rapidly changing and contested environment. It represents a departure from traditional, static basing approaches, emphasizing the need for agility, adaptability, and resilience.   

“Agile Combat Employment enhances our operational flexibility, reinforces our deterrence posture, and demonstrates our commitment to maintaining readiness in the face of evolving threats,” Ihde said. “This ACE exercise will help us train our forces to operate effectively in dispersed and contested environments, as well as prepare and exercise skills and functions we will need to execute during FMS training operations.”

The standup at Ebbing ANGB is a collaborative effort between Air Education and Training Command, the National Guard Bureau, Arkansas congressional representatives, international military leaders, Air Force Civil Engineer Center, the city of Fort Smith and its local community, and more. 

“We’re proud of the partnerships and teamwork from everyone involved in this process,” Skalicky said. “We’ve done a good deal of work to get to this point, and there is still more to do, but we’re looking forward to continuing and strengthening our long-term relationships between the U.S. and our allies and partners, including access to training, doctrine, and increased interoperability in all future operations.”