Lockheed F-35s Get Major Role in U.S. Military Exercise

Reuters // June 02, 2015

Lockheed Martin Corp's F-35 fighter jet will play a major role in a large U.S. military exercise this week for the first time, marking another milestone for the Pentagon's largest weapons program, Air Force officials said Monday.

The exercise, which is called "Green Flag West" and runs through June 12, tests the U.S. military's ability to engage in large-scale contested operations and helps get ground troops who pinpoint potential air strikes ready for combat.

One or two F-35 A-model jets will participate in the exercises each day, along with F-16 fighter planes, A-10 gunships and other weapons, said Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Cameron Dadgar, who is charge of the exercise.

"This is the first time that the F-35 will be the primary player in this exercise," Dadgar told Reuters.

The exercise includes about 5,000 U.S. military personnel with land, sea and ground forces all working together to fight a "near peer" enemy such as China or Russia, although no specific countries are named, he said.

General Herbert Carlisle, commander of Air Combat Command, told Reuters that exercises were an important way to expose weapons and pilots to more real-world battle scenarios.

"You've got to get past just the theoretical ... to get it into the fog and friction of a dynamic environment that is changing rapidly," Carlisle said after an event hosted by the Air Force Association.

F-35 jets have taken part on a spot basis in past Green Flag exercises, but this is the first time the new war plane will play a role in nearly every scenario, Dadgar said.

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