Newspaper article The Canadian Press

F-35 Clears Major Hurdle as U.S. Air Force Declares It Combat-Ready

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

F-35 Clears Major Hurdle as U.S. Air Force Declares It Combat-Ready

Article excerpt

U.S. air force declares F-35 ready for combat

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OTTAWA - After years of cost overruns, delays, and political headaches, the U.S. air force says the version of the F-35 fighter plane that Canada was planning to buy is ready for combat.

The surprise announcement Tuesday represents a big step forward for the stealth fighter, and comes less than two months after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the controversial plane was "far from working."

Speaking at the Pentagon, Gen. Herbert Carlisle, the head of the U.S. air force, admitted there are things the F-35A still can't do, such as sharing some information between planes, which will be addressed in the coming months and years.

There are also some technical fixes that need to be made, such as making the ejection seat safe for lighter pilots.

"We are not to full operational capability," Carlisle, head of the U.S. air combat command, told reporters. "We will evolve and continue to improve it just like we have every airplane in history."

But he was effusive in his praise for the fighter jet, and said he is prepared to send it to Syria or any other war zone if needed.

"I would deploy it to a combat zone for the missions that it is uniquely qualified to do and I would have all the confidence in the world that this airplane could conduct operations," Carlisle said.

There are three versions of the F-35. The most common is the F-35A, which the previous Conservative government had planned to buy before pushing the reset button in December 2012.

The F-35B and F-35C are primarily for the U.S. marines and U.S. navy, respectively, and have special takeoff and landing equipment. The marines declared the F-35B combat ready last year, while the U.S. navy's version is scheduled for August 2018.

The Liberals promised during last year's election campaign to hold an open competition to replace Canada's aging CF-18 fighter jets, but they also said they would not buy the F-35.

Trudeau appeared to double-down on that pledge in June when he told the House of Commons that the F-35 "does not work and is far from working. …

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