The general in charge of sending fighter jets to war says Hill Air Force Base F-35s could be called on to fight ISIS in the near future.
According to the Air Force Times, General Herbert “Hawk” Carlisle, commander of the Air Force’s Air Combat Command, told reporters after a congressional hearing earlier this month that F-35s could deploy to Iraq and Syria in support of combat operations against the Islamic State when the jet is declared ready for combat.
“The minute I declare initial operational capability, if the combatant commander called me up and said, ‘We need F-35s,’ I would send them,” Carlisle says in the Air Force Times story.
As commander of the Virginia-based ACC, Carlisle is responsible for organizing combat-ready forces for deployment. The ACC operates more than 1,300 aircraft, 34 wings and 19 bases, and has more than 70 operating locations throughout the world.
The IOC designation process is ongoing right now at Hill, and the base’s 34th Fighter Squadron will be the Air Force’s first combat-ready unit. Col. David Lyons, commander of the Hill’s 388th Wing, said the jet is on schedule to meet the IOC designation on time, which has been targeted for sometime between August and December of this year.
In late June, seven of Hill’s 12 Lightning IIs completed two weeks of operational training at Mountain Home Air Force Base in Idaho, where a crew of about 180 tested the jet during simulated combat exercises. The training is part of the IOC designation process and included 88 combat sorties where pilots practiced dropping GBU-12 Paveway II bombs.
Lyons said the jets performed well in areas that have previously been in question. Perhaps most notably, the jet’s Autonomic Logistics Information System had no issues during the training. A glitch in the system had been causing the jet’s radar to shut down sporadically.
When IOC is declared, the 34th Fighter Squadron will have between 12 and 24 F-35As. Their crew members will be fully trained and equipped to conduct close air support and interdiction missions, as well as suppress and destroy enemy aircraft.
At the hearing, Carlisle said Hill’s F-35s would also likely be used to deploy into the European theater as a show of force of sorts.
“We would like to have (Hill’s) F-35s do some Baltic air policing,” he said. “That’s one of the missions that NATO does up in the Baltic regions of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. Put F-35s out there to demonstrate. Getting the F-35 out there, operationally conducting missions is very important.”