Besides Air Force initial operational capability,? two other big milestones are looming for the F-35, program executive officer Lt. Gen. Christopher Bogdan said. Bogdan said he’s hoping for a “handshake deal” on Lot 9 production “by the end of the month,” he told reporters Thursday at a McAleese and Associates seminar in Washington, D.C. He’s negotiating Lot 9 and 10 simultaneously, “and that’s not easy,” he said. Together, they represent $16 billion of work, and because Lot 10 is “a bigger quantity of airplanes, it’s more money” and “some of the costs need to be investigated” more closely. “We’re making sure we know every cost, on every line, of every one of those proposals,” he said. He’s also meeting with all the partners at the end of March to “validate” what will be in Block IV: the first tranche of updates after the all-service 3F base level of capabilities. He expects to send requirements to the Air Force and Joint Requirements Oversight Committees shortly thereafter. “When it comes out at the other end of the JROC in the spring/summer timeframe, we’ll be able to share with everybody what follow-on modernization looks like for the F-35,” he said. Not all partners will get what they want in Block IV, he added, because the weapons they want to integrate may not be mature enough at that point. To them he’ll have to say, “I know when you want it, but this is when it’s going to happen.”
U.S. Air Force F-35s and F-22s regularly deploy deep into the Pacific region from Alaska, Utah, and Hawaii. In the future, though, the head of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command would like to see the Air Force permanently station fifth-generation aircraft west of the international date line—closer to China.