The Air Force intends to inform congressional defense overseers this week when the service expects to commence initial operations with the F-35A strike fighter, said Secretary Michael Donley. “We owe them a report by June 1st. That’s on track,” he told reporters during a Pentagon briefing on May 24. Donley did not directly comment on Reuters’ May 20 report that the Air Force aimed to declare F-35A initial operational capability in mid-2016—about a year earlier than previously planned—by using the Block 2B software package that the Marine Corps intends to have in its F-35B jets when it declares them ready for real-world operations as early as mid-2015. F-35 Program Executive Officer Lt. Gen. Christopher Bogdan told lawmakers last month that he had “moderate confidence” that the Block 2B software would be available on time. The Navy’s target date for IOC with its F-35C variant is mid-2018, according to Reuters. (Donley-Welsh transcript) (See also Define Initial.)
The U.S. supports “a stronger and more capable” European defense, Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III said during an Oct. 22 press conference in Brussels—but that defense should not duplicate the functions and capabilities of the NATO alliance.