Gen. Hawk Carlisle, head of the Air Combat Command, has said Lockheed Martin-built F-35 Joint Strike Fighter aircraft will be deployed to the Middle East to support the fight against the Islamic State militant group in a few years, Military.com reported Friday.
Oriana Pawlyk writes Carlisle told reporters that F-35 planes will not join counter-Islamic State operations this year and that the aircraft’s F-35A variant will be deployed to Europe and the Pacific throughout spring and summer.
“We have plans to send [F-35] to the Middle East in the not-too-distant future,” Carlisle said.
“It would deploy as an asset for the [Combined Forces Air Component commander] at Al Udeid [Qatar], so he would use it as he would see fit, and I would certainly expect it to participate in operations just like the F-22 is today,” he added.
The commander also noted that the U.S. Air Force could keep one squadron of F-35s in the current 3i configuration in efforts to maintain combat capability, FlightGlobal reported.
F-35As reached initial operational capability in 2016 but did not meet its planned Block 3F configuration that is intended to boost the aircraft’s weapons capacity and targeting function, Leigh Giangreco wrote.
The Air Force expects Blocks 3F and 4 configurations to be available by 2018 and 2021, the report stated.