USAF F-35A declares Initial Operational Capability

F-35A 10-5009 taxis in at Mountain Home (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Jeremy L. Mosier/Released)

The United States Air Force declared Initial Operational Capability (IOC) for the Lockheed F-35A on August 2nd.

The first operational squadron on the type is the 34th Fighter Squadron, a component of the 388th Fighter Wing at Hill Air Force Base in Utah. The unit is now able to deploy 12 F-35As with fully trained aircrew and maitenance staff to conduct basic air support and interdiction with a limited suppresion of air defense ability. There are currently 15 F-35As at Hill, of which 12 have received important retrofit modifications to the fuel system and lightning protection system. A 16th F-35A is due to arrive at Hill before the end of August. Eventually 3 F-35A squadron will operate from Hill.

The next unit scheduled to receive the F-35A is the Vermont Air National Guard at Burlington, followed by the 354th Fighter Wing at Eielson in 2020 (2 squadrons) and then the 48th Fighter Wing at Lakenheath in 2021 (2 squadrons).

During the announcement of IOC the Air Combat Commander General Herbert Carlisle indicated that he envisioned the F-35A being depolyed to both the European and Pacific theatres in the next 18 months.