What Does “Combat Ready” Mean for a Troubled Fighter Jet

The USAF has declared that the first variant of its fifth-generation F-35 fighter is combat ready.

The United States Air Force (USAF) has announced that its fifth-generation aircraft, the F-35A Lightning II,has achieved initial combat readiness.

The military’s announcement comes on the heels of the F-35A’s most recent milestone, registering its first air-to-air kill. On July 28, during a sortie that took place over the skies of California, an F-35A launched an air-to-air missile and destroyed a drone.

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

Though the F-35A has been mired in controversy because of cost overruns and missed deadlines, the delivery of this new fighter jet has to come as some relief to the Pentagon and the pilots who have been putting the aircraft through its paces.

“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. This successful test demonstrates the combat capability the F-35 will bring to the U.S. military and our allies,” said F-35A pilot Major Raven LeClair.

Currently, Lockheed Martin is still developing the F-35B and F-35C variants of the F-35 fighter platform. The F-35B has been engineered to be a short takeoff and vertical landing version of the plane, and the F-35C has been built as a carrier-specific catapult-assisted takeoff jet. Neither plane has been certified combat ready.

For the time being, the USAF is operating the F-35A from the 34th Fighter Squadron of the 388th Fighter Wing at Hill Air Force Base south of Ogden, Utah. With its new combat ready status, it would come as no surprise to see the F-35A expand its operational role across the U.S. and overseas in short order.