U.S. Air Force says plans test F-35 deployment this month

Thu Feb 4, 2016 11:34pm EST
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By Andrea Shalal

NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nevada (Reuters) - The U.S. Air Force will deploy four Lockheed Martin Corp F-35 fighter jets to a different U.S. air base this month as it assesses whether the new warplane can be declared combat-ready by August as planned, a senior officer told Reuters on Thursday.

Major General Jay Silveria, who heads the U.S. Air Force Warfare Center at Nellis Air Force Base, said the F-35 jets would be sent from the Nevada base to Mountain Home Air Force Base in southwestern Idaho later this month.

The deployment would include pilots, mechanics, spare parts, equipment and the plane's computerized logistics system to test the ability to deploy the plane for combat, he said.

The test would help the Air Force assess its ability to send the jets to other locations and ensure that they can be repaired and maintained, Silveria said.

"What we’re trying to do is exercise the deployment concepts and to learn from maintenance and learn from (operations)," Silveria said.

Like any warplane, maintenance of the F-35 requires specialized tools and materials, and it was critical that all those tools travel with the jet when it deployed, he said.

Silveria said the test deployment was part of an assessment of whether an initial squadron of F-35 jets was ready for combat. He said the warfare center was due to deliver that "operational readiness assessment" to General Hawk Carlisle, head of Air Combat Command, in July.

Carlisle would use the assessment to help decide whether an initial squadron of F-35A fighter jets was ready for combat.   Continued...