Jan. 7 (UPI) -- Hill Air Force Base in Utah announced this week that the F-35A Lightning II aircraft had reached its full warfighting capability.
A combat power exercise at Hill AFB on Monday, which featured 52 F-35As launched within a condensed period of time, offered a first opportunity to use the aircraft en mass, Air Force officials said.
"After four years, we're at full strength," the 388th Fighter Wing tweeted on Jan. 5.
According to the Air Force, full warfighting capability describes a set of focus areas -- namely, fully trained pilots and maintainers, a complement of 78 aircraft and the mission and support equipment needed to fly -- within the 388th and 419th Fighter Wings squadrons.
It is distinct from full operational capability, which the aircraft has not yet reached, or from initial operational capability, which it reached in August 2016.
In the time since reaching initial operational capability, the wing has been deployed twice to Europe, once to the Pacific and has supported two Middle East combat deployments.
"Every training opportunity, exercise and deployment we've completed over the past four years has been a key stepping stone in reaching full warfighting capability," said Col. Steven Behmer, 388th Fighter Wing commander. "This is just the beginning of sustained F-35A combat operations and we will remain focused on staying ready to deploy whenever, wherever we're needed."
The first F-35As arrived at Hill AFB in September 2015 and the final aircraft arrived in December 2019.
In that period, the wings received roughly two jets every month and immediately began putting them to use, the Air Force said.
In August, an F-35A launched from the base just five hours after it departed from Lockheed Martin's Fort Worth, Texas, facility after completion.