JOINT BASE LANGLEY-EUSTIS, Va., Aug. 3 (UPI) -- The U.S. Air Force declared the F-35A Lightning II "combat ready" Tuesday.
Gen. Hawk Carlisle, commander of the Air Combat Command, said the jet has met all key criteria for initial operational capability, the service said in a statement.
Those criteria include "Airmen trained, 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 ability to deploy and conduct operational missions using program of record weapons and missions systems; and having all necessary logistics and operational elements in place."
The 34th Fighter Squadron out of Hill Air Force Base in Utah is the first operational F-35A squadron.
The service's combat ready declaration comes after the Air Force announced Monday the aircraft successfully launched an air-to-air AIM-9X Sidewinder missile, directly hitting a drone over a California test range last month.