By Phillip Swarts
July 25, 2016
The Air Force’s newest multi-role fighter, the F-35 Lightning II, could deploy to Iraq and Syria very soon if called upon, and before too long will be sent around the world, said Gen. Hawk Carlisle, the head of Air Combat Command.
“The minute I declare initial operational capability, if the combatant commander called me up and said we need F-35s I would send them,” Carlisle told reporters on Capitol Hill on July 13.
The much anticipated, much delayed, very advanced and very over-budget F-35 is set to finally reach IOC sometime in the last five months of the year, as the Air Force has been working to gear up training and maintenance capabilities for the new plane.
Reports indicated the plane might not reach operational capability until near the end of 2015 due to problems with its onboard software. But Carlisle said fixes have been made and the plane is almost ready to go.
“We’re not quite ready yet, but things are going very well in the program,” he said. “I see it at the front end of thatAugust to December window.”
At that point, the Air Force will officially offer the plane’s use to combatant commanders, including Central Command leader Army Gen. Joseph Votel.
“I would tell him what its capabilities were,” Carlisle said. “If he said I need that capability then I would deploy.”