A U.S. Air Force F-35 on the runway in Arizona. U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Darlene Seltmann
EDWARDS AFB, Calif., Feb. 12 (UPI) -- Six test and evaluation F-35 fighters are on a simulated deployment to conduct key initial operational capability mission sets, the Air Force said.
The sets are suppression of enemy air defenses, close air support and air interdiction.
The achievements of the F-35A squadron's ability to deploy, employ and sustain operations will set the benchmark capability for the Air Force to declare F-35A initial operational capability, which is scheduled for this fall.
The Air Force said the test deployment involves six aircraft and their pilots, together with more than 85 airmen from the 31st Test and Evaluation Squadron.
The testing is taking place at Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho. Some members of the 31st Test and Evaluation Squadron, from Eglin AFB in Florida, are at Edwards AFB in California.
The 31st TES is leading the design, management and execution of the F-35A deployment test.
During the test at Mountain Home AFB, the aircraft will be engaged in simulated combat scenarios to exercise representative mission processes, such as tasking, execution, debriefing and intelligence reporting.
The test team will focus on areas such as mission planning, scheduling, weapons building/loading, sortie generation, life support, mission employment, debrief and aircraft turn around.
Nellis AFB in Nevada will serve as a simulated remote air operations center for the deployed environment.
Fourth-generation aircraft -- F-15E Strike Eagles and A-10 Thunderbolt IIs -- will be integrated with the F-35 during the monthlong testing.