US-IRAN Heading For A Full Fledged War: Huge show of strength by US
35 killed in stampede at funeral of slain general in Iran
Washington: The US Air Force has performed a huge show of strength by launching 52 fully-armed Lightning II stealth fighters in a single wave from a base in Utah.
The F-35A aircraft, which are worth a total of $4.2 billion, took off in quick succession from the Hill Air Force Base in Utah on Monday as tensions mount in the Middle East over the killing of Iranian general Qassem Soleimani.
Fifty two is the number of American diplomats and civilians seized by Iran during the 1979 hostage crisis, and the number of targets that Trump has threatened to strike in Iran if the regime retaliates over Soleimani's death, according to Dailymail report.
The exercise was carried out by the active duty 388th and Reserve 419th Fighter Wings, which said it showed the Air Force's ability to deploy a large force of the F-35As.
While the exercise has been planned for several months, the execution of it came in the same week the U.S. continues to brace for Iran to respond to the drone strike killing of its most powerful general in Iraq.
The Fighter Wings revealed on Monday that the F-35As have now finally reached full war-fighting capability. 'We're ready to fly, fight, and win,' the 419th Fighter Wings tweeted after the exercise.
They added the exercise 'pushed the boundaries and tested our Airmen's ability to deploy the F-35As en masse'.
The 388th Fight Wingers said: 'The exercise, which was planned for months, demonstrated their ability to employ a large force of F-35As – testing readiness in the areas of personnel accountability, aircraft generation, ground operations, flight operations, and combat capability against air and ground targets.
'A little more than four years after receiving their first combat-coded F-35A Lightning II aircraft, Hill's fighter wings have achieved full warfighting capability.'
Each F-35A fighter is worth about $89.2 million.
The US received its first F-35A at the Hill Air Force Base four years ago.
Since then, the Fighter Wings have been training pilots, engaging in multiple large combat exercises and supporting two Middle East combat deployments.
'Every training opportunity, exercise and deployment we've completed over the past four years has been a key stepping stone in reaching full warfighting capability,' Col. Steven Behmer, 388th Fighter Wing commander, said.
Responding to Trump's threats to hit 52 Iranian sites if Tehran retaliates for the drone strike, Iran's President Hassan Rouhani pointedly wrote on Twitter: "Never threaten the Iranian nation."
And Soleimani's successor vowed to expel U.S. forces from the Middle East in revenge. "Islamabad will not allow its soil to be used for any regional conflict," Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said.
Meanwhile, Iranian state television says 35 people have been killed and 48 others injured in a stampede that erupted at a mass funeral procession for a general slain in a US airstrike.
The TV says the stampede erupted in Kerman, the hometown of Gen. Qassem Soleimani where the procession was underway on Tuesday.
A procession in Tehran on Monday drew over 1 million people in the Iranian capital, crowding both main thoroughfares and side streets in Tehran.