The US Air Force’s (USAF) fighter wings have achieved full combat capability more than four years after receiving their first combat-coded F-35A Lightning II aircraft.
The 388th and 419th fighter wings have performed an F-35A combat exercise at Hill Air Force Base (AFB).
388th Fighter Wing commander Steven Behmer said: “Every training opportunity, exercise and deployment we’ve completed over the past four years has been a key stepping stone in reaching full warfighting capability.
“This is just the beginning of sustained F-35A combat operations and we will remain focused on staying ready to deploy whenever, wherever we’re needed.”
The exercise demonstrated the ability to employ a large force of F-35As, testing readiness in personnel accountability, aircraft generation, ground operations, flight operations and combat capability areas against air and ground targets.
In September 2015, the first F-35As arrived at Hill AFB and the final aircraft arrived last December.
The 34th Fighter Squadron, which was the first squadron to stand up, started with a core of pilots who gained some level of F-35A training and experience in other platforms.
About 50% of the maintainers were fully trained when the initial jets arrived at Hill AFB and the number decreased due to PCS, retirements and separations.
388th Maintenance Group commander Michael Miles said: “At IOC (initial operational capability), we had the equipment to support one squadron that could do some semblance of combat operations.
“Now, as each squadron has progressed, and we’re on track to have all the required assets, we demonstrated that we can rely on the programme for the technical support and weapons system parts we need while we deployed all our squadrons last summer.”
Last year, the 388th and 419th USAF fighter wings proved that they could balance the equipment requirements to support all three squadrons away from home station.