The US Air Force's (USAF) F-35A Lightning II fighter aircraft has reached initial operational capability (IOC), USAF Air Combat Command (ACC) commander general Hawk Carlisle has declared.
The F-35A was recently added to ACC’s existing fleet of deployable and fifth-generation aircraft to provide air superiority, interdiction, suppression of enemy air defences and close air support.
Carlisle 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 aircraft also provides command and control functions through fused sensors, besides providing pilots with better situational awareness of the battlespace compared to any other existing single-seat platform.
The IOC is result of collaboration between the Air Force, ACC and airmen at Hill Air Force Base.
US Defense Secretary Ash Carter said: “This is a significant milestone for an aircraft that will allow the US to maintain the advantage of air superiority for years to come.
“I know that even after being declared combat ready, there is more work to do with this critical programme, but the Air Force, Air Combat Command and the men and women of Hill Air Force Base should be proud of this major step forward for the F-35A.”
The operational F-35As at Hill underwent required modifications and received software upgrades.
The modifications included a fuel-system upgrade that allows for higher “G” limits and another provides protection against lighting, ACC previously said in a statement.
The 34th Fighter Squadron (FS) is the ACC's first F-35A squadron, having met all the established criteria for initial operational capability.
Airmen from 34th FS Airmen will fly and maintain the F-35A alongside Air Force Reservists from Hill’s 419th Fighter Wing.
Image: F-35A Lightning II aircraft receive fuel from a KC-10 Extender from Travis Air Force Base, California. Photo: courtesy of US Air Force photo / Staff Sgt. Madelyn Brown.