US Air Force declares F-35 ready for action

PENTAGON: Critics of the F-35 warned it was too heavy. They warned its stealth wasn’t good enough. They warned stealth, however good, wasn’t enough against advanced detection methods. They warned its range was too short and its weapons load too light. They warned it was too hot and too loud. There was the “bad rub” that caused an engine to rip itself apart. They warned concurrency was crippling the ability to build and test aircraft fast enough and to high quality. Above all, they said it was too expensive and too late.

Today, with the declaration by the program’s biggest customer — the Air Force — that the aircraft is ready for combat, many of those criticisms will fade into the past. The official declaration of Initial Operational Capability (IOC) is what Loren Thompson, a top defense consultant, calls “a turning point for the program.”

“I am proud to announce this powerful new weapon system has achieved until combat capability,” Gen. Hawk Carlisle, head of Air Combat Command, said at the Pentagon this afternoon. Gen. David Goldfein, the newish Air Force Chief of Staff, stressed the plane’s contribution to the joint fight in a statement. Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James said in a statement that the plane’s addition “ensures the United States, along with our allies and international partners, remain prepared to deter, deny and defeat the full spectrum of growing threats around the globe.”