Military

F-35A declared combat ready following first air-to-air kill

F-35A declared combat ready fo...
An F-35A conducts testing with an AIM-9X over the skies of California
An F-35A conducts testing with an AIM-9X over the skies of California
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An F-35A conducts testing with an AIM-9X over the skies of California
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An F-35A conducts testing with an AIM-9X over the skies of California
The F-35A Lightning II fifth generation fighter aircraft was declared "combat ready"
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The F-35A Lightning II fifth generation fighter aircraft was declared "combat ready"

The US Air Force announced today that the F-35A Lightning II fifth-generation fighter aircraft is "combat ready." According to General Hawk Carlisle, the commander of Air Combat Command, the aircraft met all its key criteria for being declared operational. The declaration comes after the F-35A made its first air-to-air kill on July 28 by engaging and destroying a target drone using a heat-seeking missile.

Carlisle says that the F-35A and its infrastructure are now fit for combat. Airmen have been trained to carry out basic close air support, interdiction, and limited suppression or destruction of enemy air defenses with an operational squadron of 12 to 24 aircraft; can conduct missions using the F-35A's weapons and missions systems; and have the logistics and operational elements to get the job done.

Today's announcement follows on the first air-to-air kill by an F-35A over the skies off the coast of California. On July 28, US Air Force test pilot Major Raven LeClair fired an AIM-9X short-range heat-seeking missile from his F-35A's external wing at an aerial drone target flying in a restricted military sea test range airspace.

The Air Force confirmed that the F-35A identified, targeted, and destroyed the drone using its tracking system that allowed the pilot to verify targeting information using the high off-boresight capability of the helmet mounted display. When LeClair launched the AIM-9X missile, it acquired and intercepted the target as it's designed to do.

Before the successful shot, LeClair fired an AIM-120C at another target, but this drone was beyond visual range and the missile self-destructed for safety reasons.

"It's been said you don't really have a fighter until you can actually hit a target and we crossed that threshold with the first air-to-air weapon delivery of an AIM-9X," says LeClair."This successful test demonstrates the combat capability the F-35 will bring to the U.S. Military and our allies [and] represents the culmination of many years of careful planning by combined government and contractor teams. We want to ensure operators will receive the combat capability they need to execute their mission and return home safely – we cannot compromise or falter in delivering this capability."

The F-35A Lightning II fifth generation fighter aircraft was declared "combat ready"
The F-35A Lightning II fifth generation fighter aircraft was declared "combat ready"

The F-35A is the conventional takeoff version of the next-generation fighter being developed by Lockheed as a multi-role aircraft to replace a wide variety of warplanes. It's designed for both air superiority and for air-to-air and air-to-ground capabilities to suppress enemy air defenses. In addition, it uses intelligent combat systems to provide unprecedented situational awareness of the battlespace.

In a statement, US Defense Secretary Ash Carter said, "I want to congratulate the U.S. Air Force on today's announcement that the F-35A has achieved initial operational capability. This is a significant milestone for an aircraft that will allow the U.S. to maintain the advantage of air superiority for years to come. I know that even after being declared combat ready, there is more work to do with this critical program, but the Air Force, Air Combat Command and the men and women of Hill Air Force Base should be proud of this major step forward for the F-35A."

The F-35A is now in service with the 34th Fighter Squadron of the 388th Fighter Wing, based at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, which carried out a successful deployment in June to Mountain Home AFB, Idaho and a series of eight-aircraft sorties in mid-July.

Source: Lockheed Martin

12 comments
Mabbamam
Seen some pass overs of the f35. It was cool seeing them. They banked right over me and I could def tell it was the f35. About 2 years ago. Glad they have a new and approved platform.
mhpr262
The political pressure to have this plane finally declared "ready" must have been immense, after all the horrific delays and cost overruns. Hopefully they didn't take any shortcuts.
GabrielRoman
Awesome...A billion dollars later and this state of the misconcieved art can shoot down a 1960's designed F4 drone, which was piloted by remote control, and the F35 only missed once. Cost of the drone in todays $, doesn't matter...A billion dollar project will never stop an ideological idiot with a suicide vest. It will not deter todays war tactics by extremists. Never could , never will. And to bargain lives on the past ISR history of the USAF, blowing up a mosque or/and a hospital will be the likely threat. Lockheed will continue high profits, while the magical Jet will attend airshows and awe those in attendance, unless those in attendance are slaughtered by a 21 year old with $100 worth of explosives. Looks nice on an Officers OPR, doesn't deter todays enemy.
kmccune
Wonder how it would do in "Top Gun "?
teeduke
Gabriel—Gripe all you want about costly weaponry, but the reality is that one never knows where the next threat is likely to come from. Welcome to asymmetrical warfare.
ChrisOLeary
Launching a missile from an external rail isn't exactly stealthy. And despite what some say, I'm not convinced this thing will be any good in a dogfight.
ArnoldTaube
I believe short-cuts were taken. You should notice that the AIM-9X was not launched from the stealthy internal weapons bay. It was launched from a traditional under-wing, and radar-visible, pylon. I also question if the current F-35 pilots are really being trained in ground support. I believe I remember reading that it will be several years until the F-35 is certified to drop/fire the munitions that are needed to be really effective in that mission. While strafing the ground with the 25mm cannon qualifies as ground support, there is only so much you can destroy with the limited number of rounds the F-35 can carry. For ground support you also need to be able to use something that makes reasonably big booms.
LukeMcNeilage
Seriously.... combat ready, by launching a 1978 designed self guiding missile from and wing mount and shooting down a Drone. I could do that with a Cessna. But the Australian Government (thanks Tony) wants to continue this $24 Billion "Frog in a Well". I'd like to see what the F-35 does against a Drone with an AIM-9X and then see how Combat Ready it is.
Arthur Hu
Combat ready with Sidewinder which basically means the pilot can hear the growl once the sidewinder sees a target and lights the missle, which passively guides itself to heat signature with no help from launching aircraft which could be an OV-10 which my old Revell model was optimistically equipped with, or an A-10. Gun and sighting system (there is no physical gunsight or HUD, it is all project onto the helmet) will be working by 2017, at least against ground targets. I haven't seen a date for a radar-ranging gunsight similar to those pioneered by the F-86 (and later copied by Soviets in MiG-17 and used against F-4C Phantoms which lacked a radar gunsight because they were designed without an internal gun) .
Stradric
According to wikipedia, this program will have cost taxpayers 1.5 trillion dollars by 2020. With about 136 million tax returns in the US, that's $11k per taxpayer.