Overseas deployment of the US Air Force’s F-35 aircraft built by Lockheed Martin is likely in 2017 following the stealth fighter attaining its initial operational capability earlier this week.
"This is just the beginning, this is an interim step that will get us to what the full combat capability of the F-35 eventually will be," said General Herbert "Hawk" Carlisle, who heads the US Air Combat Command.
The USAF on Tuesday declared an initial squadron of F-35A stealth fighters is ready for combat, AFP reports.
"The F-35A will be the most dominant aircraft in our inventory, because it can go where our legacy aircraft cannot and provide the capabilities our commanders need on the modern battlefield," Carlisle said.
The squadron of about 12 planes is based at Hill Air Force Base in Utah and the planes' initial operational capability rating comes after completion of a raft of tests and training exercises.
The US Marine Corps last year announced that an initial group of F-35Bs had attained initial operational capability, though these have not yet been used in combat.
The Air Force's F-35A is one of three variants of the aircraft, designed to conduct conventional landings and take offs.
The F-35B, used by the Marine Corps, is capable of short take-offs and vertical landings, and the Navy's F-35C is built for use on aircraft carriers.
Ten ally nations have also ordered F-35s for their own air forces.