The first US Air Force fighter squadron destine to fly combat-coded F-35A Joint Strike Fighters has been reactivated at Hill Air Force Base in Utah as the flying branch prepares to declare initial operational capability in August 2016.
The 34th Fighter Squadron, known as the Rude Rams, was re-established last week and expects to start receiving jets from the manufacturer, Lockheed Martin, in September at a rate of about one per month.
According to an air force press statement, the former F-16 squadron was stood down in 2010 as part of a downsizing of the combat force and it will now be the first of three F-35 units to operate from Hill.
The 34th Fighter Squadron was activated during a ceremony at Hill Air Force Base, Utah.
US Air Force
The base will eventually accommodate 72 F-35s with approximately 35 to 40 pilot per squadrons.
The first group of maintainers has already arrived at Hill, the air force says, and pilot training will start later this year. If all goes to plan, there will be 15 jets in place to support IOC in 2016.
During a 17 July activation ceremony, air force officials responded to criticisms about the F-35’s cost and the fact that it was outmanoeuvred by a twin-seat F-16 Falcon during a test in January. “Things aren't perfect, but things are still in development and you can see the potential,” said one colonel who was quoted in the press statement.
Reactivation of the Rude Rams comes as the Marine Corps Green Knights squadron awaits an IOC decision from its senior leaders following an “operational readiness inspection” last week. The group, based at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma in Arizona, hopes to be declared combat-ready with 10 B-model F-35s.