Gen. Mike Holmes, commander of Air Combat Command, and Lt. Gen. Richard Scobee, commander of Air Force Reserve Command and chief of the Air Force Reserve, paid a visit to the active-duty 388th Fighter Wing and reserve 419th Fighter Wing to help commemorate a key milestone in F-35A Lightning II operations.
The Feb. 20 ceremony marked the 388th FW and 419th FW reaching “full warfighting capability,” which denotes success in three key areas: fully trained pilots and maintainers, a full complement of 78 aircraft and the support equipment needed to fly them.
Holmes addressed the Airmen from both wings, lauding their accomplishments with the aircraft, including additional deployments to Europe and the Pacific. He said they have “answered all the critics” in proving the jet’s capabilities.
“People said you wouldn’t make it. People said you couldn’t get it done in the time frame we set out. People said there were too many problems yet to be worked out with the airplane,” Holmes said. “And yet, pretty much on schedule, here we are.”
The 388th and 419th fighter wings are the Air Force’s only combat-capable F-35 units. Together, they fly and maintain the jet in a total force partnership, which plays on the strengths of both the active-duty and reserve.
Holmes called the F-35 one of the most “sophisticated, exquisite” machines ever made, and praised the Airmen for their crucial role in bringing it to full warfighting capability.
“We couldn’t be more proud of you and all that you’ve accomplished,” he said.
Scobee also addressed the Airmen, thanking them for their diligent work in making the F-35 program a success. He also noted he has seen “no better feat of engineering” than the F-35 during his time in the Air Force.
“This is an awesome day and it’s an awesome accomplishment,” Scobee said. “It takes a full-functioning team to be able to accomplish something like this, and that’s what has happened in these two wings.”
“The F-35 gives the Air Force and its allies the power to dominate the multi-domain, full spectrum of warfare that we’ll have to be able to do anytime, anywhere,” he said.
The wings received the first operational F-35s in 2015 and have since participated in multiple exercises both stateside and overseas. Last year, the wings began supporting combat operations with consecutive F-35 deployments to the Middle East.
“No matter how good that airplane is, no matter how impressive a scientific and technological marvel it is, it doesn’t become a weapon of war until we give it to you,” Holmes said. “You have produced a combat power that no one has ever known across the history of the world.”