The US Air Force has declared ‘Initial Operational Capability’ for the F-35A, the latest milestone for the stealth aircraft.
The F-35 family includes three variants – all single-seat jets: the F-35A conventional takeoff and landing (CTOL) variant, the F-35B short takeoff/vertical landing (STOVL) variant, and the F-35C carrier variant (CV).
Gen. Hawk Carlisle, the commander of Air Combat Command, declared the F-35A ‘combat ready’.
Carlisle lauded the aircraft’s performance, noting that 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 defences in a contested environment with an operational squadron of 12-24 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.
“I am proud to announce this powerful new weapons system has achieved initial combat capability. 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.
Deborah Lee James, Secretary of the Air Force said:
“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.”
Gen. David Goldfein, Chief of Staff of the Air Force, said:
“The combat ready F-35A is the latest fifth generation fighter aircraft in the Air Force’s inventory and provides our nation air dominance in any environment. The F-35A brings an unprecedented combination of lethality, survivability, and adaptability to joint and combined operations, and is ready to deploy and strike well-defended targets anywhere on Earth. Today’s declaration of IOC is an important milestone on the road to achieving full warfighting capability for the F-35A.”
An F-35 JPO Statement, attributable to Lt. Gen. Chris Bogdan – F-35 Program Executive Officer, read:
“The U.S. Air Force decision to make the 15 F-35As at Hill Air Force Base combat ready sends a simple and powerful message to America’s friends and foes alike – the F-35 can do its mission.
The declaration of initial operational capability marks an important milestone as the Air Force will operate the largest F-35 fleet in the world with more than 1,700 aircraft. The F-35 will form the backbone of air combat superiority for decades and enable warfighters to see adversaries first and take decisive action.
The F-35 links the Air Force, Navy, Marines and our allies together as a strong, interoperable, warfighting coalition. Last year the F-35 Joint Program Office and our industry partners worked hand-in-hand with the U.S. Marine Corps to achieve their IOC goal at the beginning of their six-month window and we’ve done it again with the U.S. Air Force. The roads leading to IOC for both Services were not easy and these accomplishments are tangible testaments to the positive change happening in the F-35 program.
Our government and industry partners have an incredible team of dedicated professionals working to deliver on our commitments. Together we are making it happen. Congratulations to the U.S. Air Force and the F-35 enterprise on fielding the world’s most advanced multi-role fighter!”