Following on from the type’s debut at airshows in the UK, the F-35A Lightning II fifth generation fighter aircraft was declared ‘combat ready’ on 2 August by General Hawk Carlisle, head of Air Combat Command.
Carlisle noted that the aircraft had met all key criteria for reaching initial operational capability. “I am proud to announce this powerful new weapons system has achieved initial combat capability,” he said. “The F-35A will be the most dominant aircraft in our inventory, because it can go where our legacy aircraft cannot and provide the capabilities our commanders need on the modern battlefield.”
The F-35A is the latest addition to ACC’s fleet of deployable and fifth generation aircraft. It provides air superiority, interdiction, suppression of enemy air defenses and close air support as well as great command and control functions through fused sensors, and will provide pilots with unprecedented situational awareness of the battlespace that will be more extensive than any single-seat platform in existence.
“Bringing the F-35A to initial combat readiness is a testament to our phenomenal Airmen and the outstanding support of the Joint Program Office and our enterprise partners. This important milestone for our fighter force ensures the United States, along with our allies and international partners, remains prepared to deter, deny, and defeat the full spectrum of growing threats around the globe,” added Deborah Lee James, Secretary of the Air Force. In the UK, the RAF and Royal Navy will be re-equipping with a mixture of Short Takeoff and Vertical Landing (STOVL) F-35B and carrier-dedicated F-35C models.
The 34th Fighter Squadron of the 388th Fighter Wing, based at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, is the service’s first operational F-35A squadron, having met all the established criteria for Initial Operational Capability including a successful June deployment to Mountain Home AFB, Idaho and a series of eight-aircraft sorties held in mid-July. 34 FS Airmen will fly and maintain the F-35A alongside Air Force Reservists from Hill’s 419th Fighter Wing.