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3 August 2016 2 comentarii
WASHINGTON — The Air Force on Tuesday declared its first squadron of F-35As ready for battle, fifteen years after Lockheed Martin won the contract to make the plane.
The milestone means that the service can now send its first operational F-35 formation — the 34th Fighter Squadron located at Hill Air Force Base, Utah — into combat operations anywhere in the world. The service, which plans to buy 1,763 F-35As, is the single-largest customer of the joint strike fighter program, which also includes the U.S. Marine Corps, Navy and a host of governments worldwide.
The Air Force, which follows the Marine Corps in approving F-35s for operations, had a five-month window between Aug. 1 and Dec. 31 to proclaim initial operational capability. After notifying Congress, Air Combat Command head Gen. Herbert “Hawk” Carlisle signed off on the declaration on August 2.
To reach the milestone, Hill Air Force Base needed at least 12 combat-ready jets capable of deploying globally to provide what officials have termed basic close-air support, air interdiction and limited suppression and destruction of enemy air defense missions. Also required were enough pilots, maintainers and equipment to support the squadron.