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​Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein speaks to airmen at Hill AFB, Utah, on Friday during a ceremony celebrating the declaration of F-35 initial operating capability. Screenshot photo

​Air Force leadership celebrated its newest operational aircraft at its main operational base, saying the F-35A will soon be the backbone of the fleet. “The F-35 will soon become the quarterback of the joint force,” Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein said during a ceremony at Hill AFB, Utah, celebrating the Aug. 2 declaration that the F-35 has reached initial operating capability. Hill is home to the 388th Fighter Wing and associated 419th Reserve Wing that are the first to fly the aircraft operationally. Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James said there is still work to do as the F-35 moves toward full operating capability, including keeping costs down so the Air Force can continue to move toward the total fleet goal of 1,763 aircraft. “But most important of all, we need to continue the focus on our people,” James said during the ceremony. “Those that fly, those that maintain, those that support this unit and others.” The new aircraft will give the Air Force an “unmatched advantage” in wars to come, officials said. “I have a message to our adversaries,” Goldfein said “It sucks to be you.”