The U.S. Air Force has confirmed the ability of its newest F-35A fighter jet to deploy directly from the factory into combat.
According to a statement released on 6 August, the 388th Fighter Wing set a speed record for bringing online a newly-delivered aircraft last week, flying a local sortie less than five hours after accepting delivery of its 68th F-35A Lightning II.
Aircraft 5261 left Lockheed Martin’s Fort Worth, Texas, production facility a little after 8 a.m. Aug. 1, 2019, landed at Hill AFB at 10 a.m., and by 3 p.m. had taken off on its first combat training mission.
“The F-35A program’s production and delivery plan was designed to allow rapid aircraft induction and quick use by the customers,” said Col. Michael Miles, 388th Maintenance Group commander. “We’ve shown the enterprise it’s possible.”
This isn’t just a “gee-whiz” record. In theory, it means that F-35As could be deployed directly from the factory into combat if a large-scale conflict ever drives that need, Miles said.
When a new F-35A comes off the line at the production facility, it undergoes several contract and government check flights before the Air Force accepts final delivery. These flights generate data points that are collected in the Autonomic Logistics Information System and then passed on to the gaining unit, in this case the 388th FW.
The previous timeline for inducting new aircraft was measured in days and weeks, but process and system improvements in the data collection and transfer process bodes well for the future, said Chief Master Sgt. Trey Munn, 388th Maintenance Group chief enlisted manager.
“We’ve been working toward this goal as the program has matured and this is great step, and a testament to the work of the folks at Lockheed Martin, the Joint Program Office, and the Airmen in the 388th and 419th Fighter Wings,” Munn said.
The 388th and 419th are the Air Force first combat-capable F-35 units. The first operational F-35As arrived at Hill in October 2015. The active duty 388th FW and Air Force Reserve 419th FW fly and maintain the jet in a Total Force partnership, which capitalizes on the strength of both components. By the end of this year, Hill AFB will be home to 78 F-35s.