Air Force Official Confident F-35A Will Reach Initial Operating Capability This Year

By Stew Magnuson
An F-35A Lightning II shortly after takeoff from Hill Air Force Base, Utah

A senior Air Force official said June 30 that he was “very positive” the F-35A Lightning II will be declared deployable by Dec. 1.
The Air Force has said the F-35A will reach initial operating capability sometime between Aug. 1 and Dec. 1. Maj. Gen. Jeff Harrigian, director of the Air Force F-35A integration office, said, “It’s going to be in the window” at a Mitchell Institute talk in Arlington, Virginia.
IOC is defined as when a capability reaches its minimum deployable form.
Seven F-35As recently flew from their home base at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, to Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho — along with their maintenance and support crews — for a series of operational tests.
“The deployment we had in Mountain Home went better than anyone could have imagined,” Harrigian said. The aircraft completed 88 out of 88 sorties and deployed 15 out of 16 bombs successfully, and the one failure in that case was due to the bomb, not the aircraft, he said.
“When you give this stuff to airmen, get out of their way. They got it. And that’s what we saw in this deployment,” he said.
The deployment was not only a test of the aircraft, but the much maligned automatic logistics information system (ALIS), which supports mission planning, ordering spare parts and maintenance. It has been the target of negative reports from the office of the director of operational test and evaluation.
“The naysayers [saying that] ALIS is going to be a significant challenge  — nonissue,” he said. During the transfer from the home base to the Mountain Home, the system performed well, he added.
Next, Gen. Herbert Carlisle, Air Combat Command commander, will take input from the operation and test community and the unit that is flying in the IOC readiness assessment, Harrigian said.
The leaders will then get together with the new Air Force chief of staff for further discussions. Gen. David Goldfein’s nomination for the position was confirmed by the Senate June 29.
“I’m feeling very positive about it,” Harrigian said about the IOC date. “There is a lot of confidence right now, not only in the airplane, but in our airmen to deliver that mission.”
Photo: Air Force

Topics: Aviation, Joint Strike Fighter

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