Air Force F-35A pilots flew last month for the first time in a large scale combat training mission to specifically defeat enemy air defense systems.
Known as SEAD, or suppression of enemy air defenses, military leaders have highlighted the F-35's ability to defeat air defense systems to allow U.S. and coalition aircraft to penetrate enemy borders. The military has allowed other aircraft such as the EA-6B Prowler to retire and allow the F-35 to take over the SEAD mission.
The F-35A is still a year away from its initial operating capability date but F-35A pilots flew SEAD missions in the recent Air Force Weapons School Integration Phase out of Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., for the first time.
Air Force officials didn't offer many details on the F-35A's performance and pointed out that many of the sensors and software is not yet ready for many of the SEAD missions.
However, Air Force leaders highlighted the ability to add the F-35A to mission packages has opened up F-22 pilots to focus more on air-to-air responsibilities. Previously, F-22 pilots were becoming over saturated with tasks, "potentially hampering mission execution," according to the release.