F-35 IOC Imminent

The Air Force will declare initial operational capability of the F-35A as early as Monday, meeting a goal set three years ago. Leaders of the F-35A enterprise at Hill AFB, Utah, on Wednesday told reporters in a teleconference that “all the boxes have been checked off” of the requirements for declaring IOC. “We have achieved all our milestones,” 388th Maintenance Group Deputy Commander Lt. Col. Steven Anderson said, and “we have submitted all the data to Air Combat Command” for ACC chief Gen. Hawk Carlisle to make the declaration official. USAF officials have said to expect an IOC press conference at the Pentagon between Aug. 1-3 next week. Friday, Aug. 5, a celebration of the achievement will be held at Hill and will feature speeches from senior USAF and industry leaders connected with the program. Hill has 15 F-35A aircraft, Anderson said, and 12 of those “have completed five critical aircraft modifications” to get them to the proper configuration. Those mods included nitrogen inerting improvements to the fuel system that lifted limits on how many Gs the aircraft can pull, as well as lightning protections that lift a rule that kept the jets 25 nautical miles away from thunderstorms, making them safer “in the air and on the ground,” Anderson said. The aircraft now being delivered from Lockheed Martin—in the 3iP6.21 software configuration—have also demonstrated that the radar software instability issue has been corrected. “We are getting good aircraft off the line from Lockheed Martin,” Anderson said. Newly delivered jets don’t need as many mods because the changes have been incorporated on the production line, he said. The 16th aircraft will be delivered in August and plans call for 72 jets at Hill by the end of 2019.