Now It’s 2016

Pentagon weapons czar Ash Carter said Thursday the Air Force now expects to have its first F-35 strike fighter unit available for operations sometime in 2016, an apparent modification of the recent estimates put forth by Air Force leaders. Briefing Senate lawmakers on the F-35 program’s status (see It’s Official above), Carter said the Air Force, Marine Corps, and Navy went back to reassess their definitions of initial operational capability in the wake of the program’s restructure. Having done that, their projected IOC dates are now: Marines, 2012; Air Force, 2016; and Navy 2016. Carter said DOD intends to stand up the first F-35 training squadron in 2011 and deliver the first production aircraft to the Marines in 2012, Air Force in 2013, and Navy in 2014. F-35 operational testing is now set to start in January 2015 and run through April 2016. (Carter’s prepared remarks)