The first squadron of fully combat capable F-35 Lightning II fighter jets is set to be activated this September, reports UPI. The fighter jets will be ready following the completion of software upgrades that will allow the full utilization of its weapons and sensor systems, according to the report.
F-35s that have not yet been upgraded to the Block 3F software have some combat capability, but won’t be able to use the full range of weapons and sensors until the new software is installed. The 34th Fighter Squadron at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, will receive the first F-35s equipped with the software, followed by a training squadron at Luke AFB, also in September.
The US Air Force declared its first squadron of F-35As ready for battle in August 2016, 15 years after Lockheed Martin won the contract to build the fighter jet.
“The F-35A brings an unprecedented combination of lethality, survivability and adaptability to joint and combined operations, and is ready to deploy and strike well-defended targets anywhere on Earth,” Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein said in a statement last year.
The 34th Fighter Squadron could be sent to the Pacific to act as a deterrent against North Korea, according to the UPI report. Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson said in an Aug. 25 press conference that the F-35 would be ready to go into combat if the need arises.