HILL AIR FORCE BASE, Utah, Aug. 2, 2016 (Gephardt Daily) — The United States Air Force on Tuesday declared its new F-35A Lightning II fifth generation fighter aircraft at Hill Air Force Base to be “combat ready.”
Hill’s squadron is the first anywhere to achieve the distinction.
Gen. Herbert “Hawk” Carlisle, commander of Air Combat Command, made the announcement from Joint Base Langley-Eustis, in Virginia.
“I am proud to announce this powerful new weapons system has achieved initial combat capability,” Carlisle said in quotes shared through a prepared statement.
“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.”
Carlisle said the aircraft had met all key criteria for reaching initial operational capability:
- Airmen trained, manned and equipped to conduct basic close air support, interdiction, and limited suppression/destruction of enemy air defenses in a contested environment with an operational squadron of 12 to 24 aircraft
- The ability to deploy and conduct operational missions using program of record weapons and missions systems
- And having all necessary logistics and operational elements in place.
The 34th Fighter Squadron of the 388th Fighter Wing, based at HAFB, qualified in part through the successful completion of a June deployment to Mountain Home AFB, Idaho and a series of eight-aircraft sorties held in mid-July.
Thirty-four airmen will fly and maintain the F-35A alongside Air Force Reservists from Hill’s 419th Fighter Wing.
“We’re very proud that the Air Force has declared us combat ready, and we’re prepared to take this aircraft wherever it’s needed in support of our national defense,” said Col. David Lyons, 388th FW commander.
Those sentiments were echoed by Col. David Smith, 419th FW commander.
“It’s an honor to fly and maintain the F-35 with our active duty counterparts here at Hill,” Smith said. “Our units were the first to fly combat-ready F-16s nearly 40 years ago, and we’re very proud to have made history once again in bringing the Air Force’s newest fighter jet to IOC.”