U.S. Air Force F-35A Joint Strike Fighter pilots coordinated close air support missions with Navy SEALs, trained with colleagues flying F-15E fighter jets and A-10 attack planes, and dropped laser-guided bombs as part of initial preparations for the aircraft's first deployment that could come in "a couple years," an official said.
Referring to recent "mini-deployments" of six of the Lockheed Martin Corp.-made stealth fighters from Edwards Air Force Base, California, to Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho, Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Harrigian, director of the F-35 Integration Office, said, "We are practicing taking what would be a smaller contingent of jets and moving them to another location and then having them employ out of that location."
As per where the initial squadron might deploy, Harrigian said that would be determined by Air Combat Command depending upon operational needs at that time. He did, however, mention the Pacific theater and Middle East as distinct possibilities.
“Within a couple years, I would envision they will take the squadron down range. Now, whether they go to Pacific Command or go to the Middle East, the operational environment and what happens in the world will drive this. If there is a situation where we need this capability and they are IOC, then Air Combat Command is going to take a hard look at using these aircraft,” he said.
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