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The Air Force's F-35A may be about to get its first taste of combat
The Air Force's variant of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter has arrived at Al Dhafra Air Base, United Arab Emirates in the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility to fly combat operations if needed, a defense official said on Monday.
"They were already scheduled to come out here for an exercise," the defense official told Task & Purpose. "But they are operational, so when or if they get called to get on an ATO [air tasking order], they will be on one."
While Marine Corps F-35Bs flew more than 100 combat sorties against ISIS and the Taliban last year, this is the first time that Air Force F-35As have deployed to the CENTCOM theater of operations.
Their arrival comes nearly a month after ISIS lost its last enclave in Syria.
The F-35As come from the active-duty 388th and reserve 491th Fighter Wings based out of Hill Air Force Base, Utah, according to U.S. Air Forces Central Command.
An AFCENT spokeswoman declined to specify exactly how many of the aircraft are now in theater, citing operational security concerns.
"This is a rotational deployment," said Maj. Holly Brauer. "They are going to be participating in some exercises coming up. It's a usual rotation."
The F-35 is meant to be able to operate within the world's deadliest air space, such as within the range of Russian or Chinese air defense systems. In addition to being stealthy, F-35s have a suite of sensors that allows them to detect enemies in the air and on the ground much further away than older U.S. aircraft.
But the F-35 program has run into cost overruns, problems, and lengthy delays that have forced the U.S. military to fly their legacy aircraft much longer than originally intended.
Nearly two decades since the program began, every F-35 variant remains beset by technical glitches. The Defense Department's 2018 research, development, test, and evaluation report found the F-35A's cannon, which is meant to attack ground targets, has an accuracy best described as "unacceptable."
"Although software corrections were made to the F-35 mission systems software to improve the stability of gun aiming cues, no software or hardware corrections have yet been implemented to correct the gun accuracy errors," the report stated. "Investigations into the gun mounts of the F-35A revealed misalignments that result in muzzle alignment errors. As a result, the true alignment of each F-35A gun is not known."
Despite this, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein said in February that he had not seen reports about significant problems with the F-35A's gun.
"Given what we've built the F-35 to do, I'm not sure that the gun is going to be the first place I would focus on," Goldfein said at the liberal Brookings Institution think tank in Washington, D.C. "When we talk about fifth generation [fighters], stealth is actually only a small part of that. When we talk about fifth generation, it's about information fusion and being able to have displayed for you information that was not available."
WATCH NEXT: An F-35 Fires 5 Paveway Missiles At The Same Time
The former Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs thinks that the VA needs to start researching medical marijuana. Not in a bit. Not soon. Right goddamn now.
US and Turkey agree on temporary cease fire to allow Kurdish fighters to withdraw from northeast Syria
The United States and Turkey have agreed to a temporary cease fire to allow Kurdish fighters to withdraw from a safe zone that Turkey is establishing along its border with Syria, Vice President Mike Pence announced on Thursday.
They started the US war against ISIS. Now they have an important message for Trump on abandoning the Kurds
Editor's Note: The following is an op-ed. The opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Task & Purpose.
Trump's recent decisions in northern Syria were ill-advised, strategically unsound, and morally shameful. In rapidly withdrawing U.S. presence and allowing a Turk offensive into Syria, we have left the Syrian Kurds behind, created a power vacuum for our adversaries to fill, and set the stage for the resurgence of ISIS.
After preliminary fitness test scores leaked in September, many have voiced concerns about how women would fare in the new Army Combat Fitness Test.
The scores — which accounted for 11 of the 63 battalions that the ACFT was tested on last year — showed an overall failure rate of 84% for women, and a 70% pass rate for men.
But Army leaders aren't concerned about this in the slightest.
More than 74 years after Marines raised the American flag on Mount Suribachi, Iwo Jima, the Marine Corps has announced that one of men in the most famous picture of World War II had been misidentified.