F-35A IOC Slip Confirmed

It’s unlikely that the Air Force will have its first unit of combat-configured F-35A strike fighters available for use in 2016, Vice Adm. David Venlet, F-35 program executive officer, told reporters Thursday. Discussing the F-35 program’s status during a press conference at his office in Arlington, Va., Venlet said it will be up to the service Chiefs to make the call when their respective F-35 models are ready for operations. However, based on the schedule flowing from last year’s F-35 technical baseline review, which re-set F-35 schedules and dollars, 2016 isn’t in the cards for USAF—or the Navy, for that matter, he said. “Last year, they had the [initial operational capability] dates in ’16. Our TBR schedule now has development test completing in ’16, so, realistically, I don’t see [IOC] being in ’16 for the Air Force and Navy,” said Venlet. His remarks echoed those of Air Force senior leaders who told Congress recently that the F-35A’s IOC date would slip from 2016. They said this milestone might not happen until as late as 2018—a critical difference since the F-35’s in-service date will determine whether the Air Force must extend the service lives of some legacy fighters.