Building an F-35 Maintenance Force

The Air Force got enough maintainers in place to meet the initial operating capability deadline for the F-35 by moving A-10s to backup status, transferring some Active Duty maintainers out of association units, contracting one maintenance unit, and converting some airmen to the F-35 from the F-16, USAF spokeswoman Ann Stefanek told Air Force Magazine. The Air Force previously said it would not have enough airmen to meet the IOC date of August 2016 if it could not proceed with its plan to retire the A-10, but after Congress blocked the bulk of that move in the Fiscal 2015 National Defense Authorization Act, the service was able to move 18 A-10s to backup inventory status, which freed up some maintainers, Stefanek said. To add more, USAF moved some Active Duty ?airmen from association units with Guard and Reserve, along with contracting out the 62nd Aircraft Maintenance Unit at Luke AFB, Ariz., and converted F-16 maintainers at Hill AFB, Utah, earlier than planned. The Air Force plans to meet IOC with the units at Hill. However, future operational units at Eielson AFB, Alaska, and RAF Lakenheath, England, mean the service will still need more maintainers to meet the 2022 deadline for full operational capability, she noted.