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Nellis Air Force receives first of F-35 combat jets | News

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Nellis Air Force receives first of F-35 combat jets

LAS VEGAS -- The first combat-configured F-35 arrived at Nellis Air Force base Thursday morning. It was a big step forward for the Joint Strike Fighter program.

The fighter will be used to develop training procedures for future F-35 pilots and between the Air Force, the Marine Corps and the Navy -- the U.S. military will eventually purchase nearly 2,500 jets. Four of those F-35s will be delivered to the 57th wing, and eventually there will be 24 F-35s on base.

“It has certainly been a long journey to get here. This is a glimpse into the future,” said Major General Jay Silveria, Welfare Center Commander.

It's been eight years since the F-35 did its first test flight. Captain Brent Golden said they would use the jet to develop the weapons system training regimen for the Air Force's F-35 pilots.

"I think with it integrating with the weapons school, that's going to be the building block for integrating it with the rest of the combat air force," Capt. Golden said.

The first class of pilots to learn the jet's combat weapons system will come through in 2018. The Joint Strike Fighter program is the most expensive weapons program in history.

It was designed to integrate data and seamlessly operate as one with other aircraft in the Air Force.

The total program estimates, based on the latest production costs from its manufacturer, Lockheed Martin, is $1.1 trillion over the course of 55 years.