In H.R. 4310, this fiscal year’s newly enacted defense policy legislation, Congress directed the Air Force Secretary to establish the initial operational capability date for the service’s F-35A strike fighter. Lawmakers want the date, along with a report on the details of the aircraft’s features at IOC, “not later than June 1,” according to Section 155 of the act, which covers this topic. They also want the Navy Secretary to define the same for the Marine Corps’ F-35B variant and the sea service’s F-35C model in that same timeframe. The anticipated IOC dates for the three F-35 configurations have slipped by several years over the past few years due to delays in completing the stealth fighter’s development and testing. (H.R. 4310 conference report; caution, extremely large-sized file.) (For more background, read Slow Climb for the F-35 from Air Force Magazine’s 2012 archive.)
The Air Force overall reduced its size by 120 aircraft in fiscal year 2021, but kept about the same number of fighter, bomber and attack aircraft, according to data supplied by the service. The F-35 fleet saw the biggest increase while the B-1B bomber fleet saw the largest decline.