The Air Force doesn’t expect to get permission to retire the A-10 Warthog, and that’s a big threat to declaring initial operational capability with the F-35 on time, F-35 system program manager Lt. Gen. Chris Bogdan said Thursday. “I’m very worried” about meeting the August 2016 IOC date for the Air Force because “we may not be able to give them … what they need” in time, he said at a press conference. USAF needs 1,100 F-35 maintainers in place to declare IOC, and 800 of them were to be “experienced” crew chiefs and backshop people brought over from the A-10 community, Bogdan explained. If Congress won’t allow the A-10’s retirement, the Air Force will not only have to come up with an extra 800 people somewhere to send to the F-35, but the number of experienced maintainers available will be smaller. It takes “a lot longer” to train a brand-new maintainer to be a 5-7-level tech than the “tech sergeants, master sergeants, and senior master sergeants who sign off” on the jet’s paperwork before it can fly, Bogdan said. Meeting USAF’s requirements is now “a goal that’s really hard to get to,” though he has not abandoned it, Bogdan said.
Three B-1B Lancers from the 7th Bomb Wing flew over the Indo-Pacific alongside F-16s from the Japanese Air Self Defense Force recently, as part of a joint large force exercise. The mission began and ended in the continental U.S., as the bombers flew 31 hours and landed Jan. 11.