US Air Force declares the F-35A fighter jet ready for combat

The F-35A Lightning II has been declared 'combat ready' by the US Air Force - image courtesy of US Air Force photoStaff Sgt. Madelyn Brown - www.af.mil - F-35
The F-35A Lightning II has been declared 'combat ready' by the US Air Force - image courtesy of US Air Force photoStaff Sgt. Madelyn Brown - www.af.mil.

The US Air Force has declared the world’s most expensive and advanced weapons system in history, the F-35 fighter jet, is ready for combat.

The US Air Force recently announced that its version of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, the F-35A Lightning fifth generation fighter aircraft, is ‘combat ready’ in an August 2 announcement by the commander of Air Combat Command General Hawk Carlisle.

General Carlisle praised the F-35 A Lightning’s capabilities, describing the aircraft as the most dominant of the US Air Force fleet and that it would help meet the needs of 21st century warfare.

“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 Air Combat Command’s fleet of deployable and fifth-generation aircraft.

According to the US Airforce, the F-35A Lightning II provides air superiority, interdiction, suppression of enemy air defences and close air support as well as great command and control functions through fused sensors.

The F-35A Lightning II will also provide pilots with unprecedented situational awareness of the battlespace that will be more extensive than any single-seat platform in existence.

Total cost of the F-35 program estimated at $1.5tr

Lockheed Martin’s F-35A was awarded Initial Operating Capability (IOC) by the US Air Force on August 2, allowing a single USAF squadron to potentially use the aircraft in combat.

The F-35 program was one of the most expensive in US history at an estimated cost of over (US)$400bn.

The US military plans to purchase a total of 2,443 of the F-35A, a deal which looks set to be a revenue driver for years to come for Lockheed Martin.

A Selected Acquisition Report (SAR) by the Pentagon published in March stated that about US$1.5tr will be spent over the project’s lifetime, including acquisition, maintenance and ‘sustainment‘ costs.

Last week’s declaration that the F-35A was operational for potential military use heralds a new era for US military and defense force capabilities, and one which Chief of Staff of the Air Force, General David L. Goldfein, signified would be led by the capabilities of the F-35A.

“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,” he said.

“The F-35A brings an unprecedented combination of lethality, survivability and adaptability to joint and combined operations, and is ready to deploy and trike 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.”

The F-35A will be an invaluable addition in enhancing the capabilities of the US Air Force, and will be less strenuous on its budget now that Lockheed Martin has streamlined production and cut costs, which the company said will make future development much easier and less strenuous.

But the road to producing a military aircraft of extraordinary capabilities has been a rocky one to say the least

Lockheed Martin’s F-35 program has encountered numerous criticisms from US Congress and potential buyers for being costly and behind schedule.

But with the recent awarding of IOC, it seems Lockheed Martin is on the right step to producing what could be the defining military aircraft of 21st century warfare.