Kitting the F-35 for CAS

The F-35 will be “basic” close air support capable when it achieves initial operational capability next September, but improvements in the coming years will make it more effective for joint CAS missions, an Air Combat Command official told reporters Thursday. IOC CAS capabilities will include “limited” suppression of enemy air defenses and destruction of enemy air defenses capabilities, as well as its air interdiction weapons and capabilities, said Maj. Michael Albrecht, the F-35 functional area manager in ACC’s operations directorate. By next year, the F-35 will be capable of dropping both laser-guided bombs and Joint Direct Attack Munitions, whereas by 2019 it will improve both its sensor capabilities and gain the ability to use “different variations of precision-guided munitions,” such as the Small Diameter Bomb II, he added. Albrecht confirmed the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency did present a brief on future CAS weapons development at the recent CAS Focus Week, but said the services are still talking about their various concepts and ideas in this area. “[The services] talked about having their [research and development] look at what kinds of things we could bring to the CAS fight in the future,” he said, specifically weapons that are “platform agnostic, so we can put it on whatever is flying out there.”