The F-35’s Limits

There are still some issues to be shaken out of the F-35A, Air Combat Command chief Gen. Hawk Carlisle said Tuesday. Speaking with reporters at the Pentagon about declaring the F-35A’s initial operational capability, Carlisle said the displays are not yet fully “intuitive” for the pilots, and the “pilot-vehicle interface” needs work. He explained that sometimes the function pilots want to perform or the info they want to see requires “too many actions … like putting a cursor on it” that can’t be performed without taking their hands off the throttle and stick. Carlisle also said it was understood from the outset of the program that this initial version—the 3i software build—would not have full capability, particularly in close air support, but the jet will “continue to evolve” just as “every new airplane we have ever fielded” has. With regard to CAS, Carlisle said the F-35 will lack an infrared “pointer” for a while, but will pick up more functionality with the objective 3F version and in the “Block 4” package of upgrades. Surprisingly, Carlisle wasn’t asked about the Autonomic Logistics Information System, which earlier this year was considered the only potential obstacle to declaring IOC in August. Maintainers with the 388th Fighter Wing said last week and during a recent deployment to Britain that the deployable version of the ALIS does everything they need it to do, and USAF has said the system will, like the F-35, gain more capability as it grows and develops.