The Air Force’s 5th generation multi-weather stealth fighter jet is now one step closer to replacing the legacy aircrafts in the U.S. military. The $110 million, F-35A Lighting II has been at the center of controversy. There have been major concerns about the 15-year delay in the production of the aircraft and costs which have been well over the original projected expense.
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The stealth aircraft has faced its fair share of criticism as a part of the $379 billion weapon program, the most expensive in America’s military history. Senate Armed Services Committee chairman, Sen. John McCain, described the development of the F-35 as “a scandal,” citing cost overruns that “have been disgraceful.” But its combat-ready capabilities seems to be proving those naysayers wrong.
“It has been trash-talked a lot, but this is one mean machine and it will prove its combat value,” Rebecca Grant, president of Washington D.C.-based defense research firm IRIS Independent Research. Grant continued to put the critic’s minds at ease stating, “It’s ready to go to war, it’s ready to keep the peace.”
Gen. Hawk Carlisle, commander of the Air Combat Command, announced the aircraft’s combat readiness Tuesday. “I am proud to announce this powerful new weapons system has achieved initial combat capability.”
After seeing the videos of the aircraft in action, it does look very impressive. The laser-guided bombing runs have been turning heads during their testing. Carlisle said in a statement, “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.”
From all accounts it seems all but inevitable that we will see this aircraft introduced into the fleet. According to the Air Force, airman have been trained and manned and equipped “to conduct basic close air support, interdiction and limited suppression/destruction of enemy air defenses in a contested environment with an operational squadron of 12-24 aircraft.”
The aircraft is being developed by Lockheed Martin, and there will be three different variants of the F-35A. It may be a good time away with reports stating a earliest 2021 release date, but this plane looks to be the future of aircrafts. The F-35A is to have a lifespan until 2077 report indicate. It is to be run by the U.S. Air Force, Marines and Navy.