There are 222 F-35A maintainers at Hill AFB, Utah, now, and 150 more are in the pipeline, handily beating requirements for initial operational capability for the new fighter, Lt. Col. Steven Anderson, 388th Maintenance Group deputy commander, told reporters in a telecon Wednesday. The ALIS (Autonomic Logistics Information System), which has been problematic in recent months, is up to the task of supporting a six-ship deployment, as required for IOC, he said, and will improve in the months and years to come. There are a combined 21 Active Duty and Reserve pilots certified—and three more nearly certified—“combat mission ready” in the air-to-air, close air support, interdiction, and “limited” suppression of enemy air defense missions, he reported. The CAS profile is similar to that flown by F-16s in Afghanistan in recent years, Lt. Col. George Watkins, 34th FS commander said, with GPS-guided and laser-guided bombs. The 34th Fighter Squadron has actually overflown its allotted flying hours by 14.5 percent “because of the increased reliability of the Low-Rate Initial Production Lot 7 and 8 aircraft,” and nine of the 15 aircraft serving with the unit were delivered early, Anderson added. Maintainers and depot workers at Hill worked “158 days … nonstop” to achieve IOC on time by Aug. 1, he said, and completed necessary modifications to the initial 12 aircraft “33 days ahead of schedule.” The timeline for when the F-35s actually deploy for real-world missions will be up to ACC chief Gen. Hawk Carlisle, but the unit is ready, Watkins said.
Chief Master Sergeant of the Space Force Roger A. Towberman delivered a keynote address on “The Guardians of Tomorrow” at AFA’s Air, Space & Cyber Conference, Sept. 20, 2022. Watch the video or read the transcript.