The F-35A is making it tough for US ground Surface to Air Missile (SAM) operators to train due to its stealth technology.  Recent reports say that the F-35A was almost invisible to ground forces in a training environment.

Let’s hope the F-35 stealth technology holds up as well in theater as it does in a training environment.  F-35A pilots had to resort to turning on their transponders during a recent training exercise because SAM operators at Mountain Home Air Force Base could not track them without their transponders on.

Maybe the US is starting to get its money’s worth for the world’s most expensive fighter?

“If they never saw us, they couldn’t target us,” said Lt. Col. George Watkins, the commander of the 34th Fighter Squadron at Hill Air Force Base, Utah. The 34th Fighter Squadron is expected to be the USAF’s first IOC (Initial Operational Capability) squadron. IOC means the fighter meets the minimum operational capabilities to use the jet for normal operations.

“We basically told them where we were at and said, ‘Hey, try to shoot at us,’ ” he said, adding that without the transponders on, “most likely we would not have suffered a single loss from any SAM threats while we were training at Mountain Home.”

An SA-13 "Gopher" SAM system on display inside the Threat Training Facility at Nellis AFB, NV.
An SA-13 “Gopher” SAM system on display inside the Threat Training Facility at Nellis AFB, NV.

The USAF is expected to announce within days that the 34th Fighter Squadron is IOC. The 34th Fighter Squadron, also known as the Rude Rams, have been training with the F-35 since being activated in July 2015.

“When we go to train, it’s really an unfair fight for the guys who are simulating the adversaries,” Watkins continued. “We’ve been amazed by what we can do when we go up against fourth-gen adversaries in our training environment, in the air and on the ground.”

It sounds as if a full up F-35 is a very lethal and stealthy.  For an estimated $1 trillion dollar program, it better be!

You can read Phil Swarts full article here.

Top Photo credit: A U.S. Air Force F-35A Lightning II, also known as Joint Strike Fighter, taxis after landing at Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho, Feb. 8, 2016. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Jeremy L. Mosier/Released)