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​Maintainers from the 419th and 388th Fighter Wings Hill AFB, Utah, conduct preflight checks on an F-35A Lightning II during Red Flag 17-1 at Nellis AFB, Nev., Jan. 24, 2017. Air Force photo by A1C Nathan Byrnes.

​The F-35A is ready for combat and will deploy “in the spring to summer” overseas, Air Combat Command chief Gen. Hawk Carlisle told defense writers in Washington, D.C., Friday. Carlisle said he’s perfectly comfortable with the F-35A’s combat capability, recently borne out during a Red Flag exercise where they “performed extremely well.” While it hasn’t been decided exactly where the Lightnings will go first, the thinking is it will be a “short deployment to the Pacific, and a longer deployment to Europe,” or vice-versa, Carlisle observed. The type will also deploy to the Middle East “in the not-too-distant future,” he said. Though still few in number, the operational F-35s are part of the force, Carlisle explained, and the rest of the fighter force is already oversubscribed. “It’s an operational asset. We’ll use it accordingly,” he asserted. Responding to a reporter’s question that F-35s and F-22s in Operation Inherent Resolve might be “overkill,” Carlisle said they are becoming the bulk of the force and will go where platforms are needed. He also said he’s had full confidence in the F-35 since declaring initial operational capability with the type last August.