The Air Force’s variant of the F-35 is doing “very, very well” at its first Red Flag training exercise, where it’s facing advanced threats at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada.

Lt. Col. George Watkins, the 34th Fighter Squadron commander, said Thursday that 13 F-35As from Hill Air Force Base are participating in Red Flag and had flown 110 missions so far.

While the F-35B, the Marine Corps variant that can take off and land vertically, participated in last year’s iteration of the exercise, this is the first showing for the A variant, which takes off and lands on a runway. It’s the version being purchased by the Air Force as well as most international partners, such as Australia and the United Kingdom, which also participated in the exercise.

The Lockheed Martin fifth-generation joint strike fighter’s kill ratio was 15 aggressors killed for every one F-35 taken out, but Watkins stressed that a perfect ratio would signify that the training exercise wasn’t hard enough and wouldn’t benefit pilots trying to prepare for combat.

“If we didn’t suffer a few losses, it wouldn’t be challenging enough, so we’d have to go back and redo it. So there are some threats out there that make it through because of their sheer numbers and the advanced threats that they’re shooting at us. So we have had one or two losses so far in our training,” he said. “That’s good for the pilots.”

Watkins flew F-16s in four previous Red Flag exercises, and said the threats faced in 2017 were “significantly more complex and aggressive” than in past years.

“I’ve never seen a Red Flag like this where they put up as many advanced threats against us,” he said.

President Trump has criticized the F-35 for being so expensive and has had direct conversations with Lockheed Martin’s CEO, Marillyn Hewson, to work to reduce costs. He has also suggested that he would promote competition for future fighter jets between Lockheed Martin and Boeing, which makes the fourth-generation F/A-18 Super Hornet, and said that he asked Boeing to price out a version of the Super Hornet that’s comparable to the F-35.

Asked to compare the two platforms, Watkins refused to do so, saying that it’s “apples to oranges,” a sentiment echoed by former service leaders as well.

Chelsea Clinton takes swipe at Kellyanne Conway over 'Bowling Green Massacre'

Also from the Washington Examiner

Chelsea Clinton took a swipe at White House senior adviser Kellyanne Conway on Friday for wrongly referencing a “massacre” that actually never took place.

In a tweet on Friday morning, Clinton referenced an attack in France and said: “Very grateful no one seriously hurt in the Louvre attack …or the (completely fake) Bowling Green Massacre. Please don’t make up attacks.”

Very grateful no one seriously hurt in the Louvre attack …or the (completely fake) Bowling Green Massacre. Please don't make up attacks.

02/03/17 12:09 PM

“From my perspective, the F-35 has been living up to what it was expected to do,” Watkins said.

Democrats proving powerless to stop President Trump's Cabinet

Top Story

Senate Democrats have little to show for trying to stall President Trump’s nominees ahead of a bruising Supreme Court confirmation fight.

02/03/17 4:00 AM

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