Six F-35As arrived at Mountain Home AFB, Idaho, Feb. 8, 2016, from Edwards AFB, Calif., to begin an operational deployment test at a nearby range complex. The test will help develop the concept of operations as well as validate the aircraft's capability to deploy.
In order for the U.S. Air Force to declare initial operating capability for the F-35A, the aircraft must be able to execute three key mission sets: suppression and destruction of enemy air defense, air interdiction missions, as well as conduct basic close air support - to include alert launches. Each of these functions will be executed in a limited capacity to measure the effectiveness of the weapons system in line with the IOC progress. The deployment test is designed not only to identify capabilities, but also any limitations the aircraft may have.