Home » Aviation » U.S. Air Force Declares Initial Operational Capability on F-35A

U.S. Air Force Declares Initial Operational Capability on F-35A

F-35A Lightning II aircraft receive fuel from a KC-10 Extender on July 13, 2016, during a flight from England to the U.S. after participating in the world's largest air show, the Royal International Air Tattoo. US Air Force photo.

F-35A Lightning II aircraft receive fuel from a KC-10 Extender on July 13, 2016, during a flight from England to the U.S. after participating in the world’s largest air show, the Royal International Air Tattoo. US Air Force photo.

The U.S. Air Force declared initial operational capability (IOC) on its F-35A Joint Strike Fighter today.

Commander of Air Combat Command Gen. Hawk Carlisle certified that the plane had met all key criteria to be considered “combat ready”: it has enough trained airmen to support an operational deployment of 12 to 24 planes for close air support, interdiction, and limited suppression/destruction of enemy air defenses missions; the ability to deploy and conduct missions using program of record weapons; and the proper logistics in place to sustain a deployed force.

“I am proud to announce this powerful new weapons system has achieved initial combat capability,” Carlisle said in a 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.”

The Air Force activated its first operational F-35A squadron – the 34th Fighter Squadron of the 388th Fighter Wing, based at Hill Air Force Base, Utah – on July 17 Ahead of the IOC declaration, that squadron deployed to Mountain Home Air Force Base in Idaho in June and conducted a series of eight-aircraft sorties in mid-July. The first planes delivered last September and have since underdone modifications.

“Our Airmen have worked tirelessly to make sure our aircraft are combat ready: meeting challenges head-on and completing all the required milestones,” Col. David Lyons, 388th Fighter Wing commander, said in the statement.
“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.”

F-35 Program Executive Officer Air Force Lt. Gen. Chris Bogdan said in the statement that “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.”

Jeff Babione, Lockheed Martin’s F-35 Executive Vice President and General Manager, congratulated the Air Force, saying in the statement that “the multi-service F-35 Lightning II represents a quantum leap in air power. With the F-35A, the Air Force now has a fighter combining next-generation radar-evading stealth, supersonic speed, fighter agility and advanced logistical support with the most powerful and comprehensive integrated sensor package of any fighter aircraft in history. It will provide Airmen unprecedented lethality and survivability, a capability they will use to defend America and our allies for decades to come.”

The Marine Corps declared IOC on its F-35B last July after putting its first operational squadron, Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 121, through an operational readiness inspection – something that was not required by the Department of Defense but instead was borrowed from the British military. In the past year, the service has stood up its second squadron and continues to refine its tactics to make best use of the planes’ capabilities.

“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,” Bogdan said.

  • George Obando


    • Sons of Liberty

      Where let’s see. The USAF is at its lowest readiness level in 50 years. Marine aviation has 276 FA18s with only 87 actually available and able to fly. Meaning less than a 3rd of marines strike fighters are available compared to 2009 when the figure was 77% for the D, 76% of the C, and 73% for the As.

      At the same time, 11 of the 12 fixed and tilt rotor wings has had its. Mission capablity rate fallen. Of the USMC 147 CH53s only 42 are mission capable for a rate of 28.5%. Compared to 2009 when that rate was 63% almost twice the current readiness rate.

      Pilot readiness is also fallen with most marine f18 pilots logging less than 8 hours a month. This is the lowest rate in decades.

      This is just the marine Corp the AF and other services have similar readiness short falls across all systems and troops.

      So I sure hope some one has informed all our political leadership of the abysmal state of our military today. We are doing little to truly support all the services due to sequester. Readiness and training are the life blood to drive capablities and war fighting capablities and we are failing to provide the needed funds to keep planes flying and troops training.

    • Ctrot

      Yes but he was too busy having Twitter fights with Gold Star families and attacking other Republicans to pay attention.

  • The most under-reported factoid about the F-35 is that it’s the first tactical jet in U.S. history to reach operational capability without one single crash. No crashes, no injuries.
    Every 3rd and 4th generation fighter or attack plane (plus the F-22) has suffered crashes in development, and nearly all jets had some fatalities. Some had double-digit fatalities before going to war. Even highly respected airframes have run up unheard of crash numbers. The F-15 has over 150 non-combat crashes, and (brace yourselves) the F-16 has over 650. Imagine how scandalous it would be had the F-35 matched the safety record of other jets while in development.

  • Hugh

    This all sounds good. What downside comments are there?

    • RobM1981

      It all sounds like “we’re ready,” which is good – but all it proves is that the plane has been deployed.

      Nobody ever said it couldn’t fly. The question has always been: is it worth this kind of money? A Trillion dollars? The gent from Lockheed heaped praise on it, but… c’mon. He’s the vendor.

      Is it really “next generation stealth?” Is it better than the F22 in that regard? OK, so it can hypercruise – but so can the 22.

      The current F-15’s and 16’s are 40 years old at this point. More than that, actually. To say that the F-35 is better means very little… it had *better* be better. For $1T and >40 years of technological improvements, it had better be a *lot* better.

      The F-35B is certainly a quantum leap past the AV-8 Harrier. That’s an instance where that term, quantum leap, is applicable. The F-35 completely outclasses the Harrier in every way, for sure. I’m not sure if that’s worth $1,000,000,000.00, but it’s certainly a real improvement.

      Is it that much better than the F-22? For all of the talk about cost savings, you have to include the full cost of development. The F-22 was deployed, for crying out loud. To then spend $1T on a new plane “to save money” is crazy – unless that plane is *much* better than the 22.

      Is it?

      One of the key selling points was that the F-35 would replace the A-10. We all knew that this was, pardon the term: “hogwash,” and it still is.

      I’m not sure that the 35 even replaces the F-22.

      So, again, why spend One Trillion Dollars of our money?

      That money could have been sent to Iran, or some other worthy cause… 😉

      • Tim Dolan

        Just a couple of comments,
        The F-35 was not a replacement for the F-22, it is a replacement for the F-16 (and yes laughably the A-10).
        The sensor and networking suite on the F-35 is superior to even the F-22 and is supposed to help the stealth be even better, although I don’t know if it is truly a next generation. More like the next generation of I-pod, sure it is better, but do you need to buy a new one kind.

        I have been mixed on the F-35, it is a good aircraft and we need a manned one (can’t do everything with drones), but it is also a bit on the pricey side for what it does and what it is supposed to replace.

        • Mike

          I would rather have more proven A-10s in the field. They are cheaper to staff and run and therefore can be deployed in more places at once.

      • Corporatski Kittenbot 2.0

        “I’m not sure that the 35 even replaces the F-22.”…..

        Just as well, cos it doesn’t.

        If you feel that the price is too high then consider the alternative.
        Take the construction costs of 2,400 F35s, add in the tens of thousands of munitions they will use, then add in the cost of the billions of gallons of fuel they will use.
        The hundreds of thousands of spare parts, then the cost of upgrades, then consider this cost for over 40 years.

        Now compare it to the alternative of maintaining their predecessor F-16, F/A-18, AV-8, EA-6B fleets instead.

        Compare those two numbers and see the difference.

      • Jacek Zemło

        You’ve certainly got a point here!:-)

  • disqus_zommBwspv9

    I wonder are they following doctrine or rewriting it.

  • Jacek Zemło

    Come on, the name of Mr Carlisle is Herbert J., not Hawk – “Hawk” is his call sign!

  • omegatalon

    The major lag in the F-35 program has been software which still hasn’t yet been fully written and you’ve got to wonder whether Lockheed Martin and the DoD took the wrong approach in developing the OS for the F-35 instead of following the approach used by Tesla to develop their autonomous driving systems where they integrated an Artificial Intelligence element so that their car’s computer will write it’s own code from real experience as this has allowed Tesla to do in months what programmers might have taken years.

  • Lonewolf Ethos

    Nice and shiny, but the F-35 cannot do what the A-10 Warthog can; loiter to protect our troops.