The Air Force is on track to declare initial operational capability by its target date of August 2016, but if Congress fails to pass a budget and instead settles on a long-term continuing resolution, the service will be “in a world of hurt,” Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James said. James spoke to reporters Sept. 18 at a hangar at JB Andrews, Md., standing in front of the aircraft she said will be “lethal, survivable, and adaptable.” James also addressed the aircraft’s costs, saying that by 2019, the cost should be less than $80 million, about the price of a fourth-generation fighter. “I say that’s a good deal for the country,” she said. The Air Force now has a fleet of more than 120 F-35s, and has trained 200 pilots and 1,800 maintainers, she said. Still, she said, sequestration or a long-term continuing resolution will be problematic for the military as a whole, and particularly the F-35 program. Right now, the Air Force plans to acquire 16 more of the aircraft in Fiscal 2016 than it did in Fiscal 2015, but a long-term continuing resolution would mean no additional aircraft, she said.
As the U.S. continues to pursue a diplomatic resolution with Russia over its troop buildup on the Ukraine border, the Defense Department is looking into what capabilities it will need to reassure NATO allies if Russia does launch an invasion, its top spokesperson said Jan. 21.