Defense News: 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. by Valerie Insinna
'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 US Marine Corps, US 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 (IOC). After notifying Congress, Air Combat Command (ACC) head Gen. Herbert “Hawk” Carlisle signed off on the declaration on Aug. 2.
'In a briefing with reporters Tuesday afternoon, Carlisle stressed that although the F-35A is not perfect, the aircraft has significantly improved from the early days of the program. More importantly, its stealth, electronic warfare and sensor fusion capabilities are urgently needed for future conflicts.
'"Given the national security strategy, we need it," he said. "You look at the potential adversaries out there, or the potential environments where we have to operate this airplane, the attributes that the F-35 brings — the ability to penetrate defensive airspace, the ability to deliver precision munitions with a sensor suite that fuses data from multiple information sources — is something our nation needs."'