Editor’s Note: The U.S. Air Force’s F-35A Lightning II continues to make great strides in its advance toward IOC (Initial Operational Capability), which is anticipated sometime between August and October of this year. While most of the good news stories concerning the F-35 these days cannot be discussed for classification reason, this one is definitely getting some attention. The Rangers from Fort Benning called the exercise successful, as it allowed them to test the capabilities and limitations of the F-35 in the context of their specific mission sets.
Although the Air Force separated from the Army in 1947, the two forces have a long history of working together to dominate the sky and ground in combat.
This tradition continues today with the 3rd Ranger Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment’s recent visit to Eglin Air Force Base to conduct close air support exercises with a pair of F-35A Lightning II fighter jets. Soldiers of the ranger battalion are fire support specialists responsible for intelligence activities of the Army’s field artillery team.
Two F-35As teamed up with the battalion to provide air support against simulated hostile targets in close proximity to the rangers. One of the capabilities of the F-35 is to provide support to ground forces, to include joint terminal attack controllers and joint fire observers.
“(This) was the first time these guys have worked with the F-35A,” said Air Force Maj. Christopher Collins, a pilot in the 33rd Operations Support Squadron. “It was a great opportunity to share tactics and showcase some of the unique capabilities we have with this jet.”
In a CAS mission, rangers are responsible for setting up and operating communications systems to encode and decode messages, assist in the preparation of fire support plans with target coordinates, operate laser range finders and target devices, and determine target locations using computers or manual calculations.
For the rangers, this exercise allowed them to familiarize themselves with the F-35A and how it can support ground troops in a future deployed environment.
The original article in its entirety can be viewed right here.
(Featured photo courtesy of U.S. Air Force/Senior Airman Andrea Posey)