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​An F-35A Lightning II (foreground) and an F-16 approach Lake Mead National Recreation Area on their way to Nellis AFB, Nev., on Jan. 15, 2015. The fighter was the US Air Force Weapons School's first assigned F-35, used for tactics development and training activities. Air Force photo by SrA. Cody Griffith. 

​Technicians at Nellis AFB, Nev., have completed an upgrade for the base's first two F-35A fighters, installing the 2B software and avionics package on-site to save time, rather than sending them to a depot-level facility. The on-site work to the F-35As allow Nellis' F-35s to stay at home and focus on tactics development and training activities as USAF pushes toward initial operational capability for the fleet. "Having only eight aircraft assigned to our unit, a 25-percent reduction puts the pressure on the maintainers to keep them flying," aircraft maintenance unit production superintendent MSgt. Travis Hoogstraten said in a release Aug. 6. The 2B package expands the F-35's flight envelope to include supersonic flight and more demanding maneuvers, and improves pilot interface and targeting abilities. Because of Nellis' role in refining tactics for the F-35 fleet, "upgrading our aircraft to 2B is not only essential to Air Force initial operating capability, but the progression of the joint F-35 program," added Hoogstraten. Working with Lockheed Martin, the unit managed to complete the first 1B-to-2B upgrade without impacting unit flying rates, in half the time it would have taken to send the aircraft elsewhere, according to the release. The first upgrade began in May and was finished in early July.