U.S. Air Force F-35A Lightning IIs from the 354th Fighter Wing, Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska, arrived at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan, December 3, to execute Operation Iron Dagger. Their arrival signals the continuing effort to support the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command’s dynamic force employment (DFE) concept through agile combat employment (ACE), which supports the National Defense Strategy effort to conduct training with joint partners while maintaining global peace and security. The operation includes a cross section of Airmen from the 354th FW. During the deployment the U.S. Air Force has integrated with U.S. Marine Corps’ F-35B Lightning IIs from III Marine Expeditionary Force to strengthen partnerships and enhance joint capabilities, maintain readiness to fulfill U.S. obligations under the mutual security treaty to defend Japan, and ensure a free and open Indo-Pacific.
“JADC2 is a true all-domain structure to modernize command and control of the Joint Force and our international partners,” said Chief Master Sgt. John Lokken, 354th AEW command chief. “Those that make it happen are multi-capable Airmen. They are trained in tasks outside their career field to decrease our footprint and provide a more lean and agile force.”
“This DFE operation has demonstrated our ability to rapidly mobilize and deploy fifth generation airpower across the Indo-Pacific theater,” said U.S. Air Force Col. David Berkland, 354th Air Expeditionary Wing commander. “It’s been a great opportunity for the 354th FW team to refine ACE operations, strengthen partnerships and sharpen joint interoperability.”
The 354th FW’s ability to sustain ACE operations through persistent logistics has already been validated through multiple exercises in the region. Operation Iron Dagger provides the opportunity to refine critical warfighting capabilities, such as Joint all-Domain Command and Control (JADC2) and multi-capable Airmen. The National Defense Strategy directs U.S. forces to develop a lethal, agile and resilient force posture. Operations like Iron Dagger allow U.S. forces to be strategically predictable and operationally unpredictable in the Indo-Pacific region. Pacific Air Forces is committed to enabling a flexible theater posture that will increase Department of Defense options for proactive and scalable employment of the Joint Force during conflict.
The 354th Fighter Wing is a United States Air Force wing that is part of Pacific Air Forces (PACAF). It is the host wing at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska, and is assigned to the Eleventh Air Force (11 AF). All 354th Fighter Wing Aircraft carry the tail code “AK”. From 2000 to present, the wing trained for the defense of northwestern North America and for contingency operations worldwide. On 15 August 2007, as a result of 2005 Base Realignment and Closure Commission action, the 354 FW was realigned to become strictly an F-16-equipped organization. The wing’s 355th Fighter Squadron (355 FS) was inactivated and all 355 FS A-10 aircraft were redistributed to other A-10 units. The 18th Fighter Squadron was redesignated as the 18th Aggressor Squadron (18 AS) and remains equipped with the F-16. New F-35s began arriving for the wing in April 2020.