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​Lt. Gen. Christopher Bogdan, the program executive officer for the F-35 Lightning II Joint Program Office in Arlington, Va., speaks to airmen and civilian employees who work on the F-35A at Nellis AFB, Nev., Aug. 27, 2015. Air Force photo by SSgt. Siuta B. Ika.

The Air Force’s F-35s need a number of modifications before they are combat ready, but the biggest problem the Joint Strike Fighter program is having is finding ways to get the aircraft modified while still training enough pilots to be ready once initial operational capability is declared, the F-35 program office’s executive officer said Sept. 9. By 2019, there will be 493 F-35s out in the field, and every single one of them will need modifications, said Lt. G​en. Christopher Bogdan. Still, the biggest constraint, other than the enormous cost, is the time it takes for the aircraft to get the needed updates, he said. Speaking at the ComDef conference in Washington, D.C., Bogdan said the F-35 program has moved beyond “slow and steady progress” and is now “rapidly accelerating and growing” as it approaches a “pivot point” between the big development phase and the follow-on development program. The Air Force is slated to declare IOC by Aug. 1, 2016, Bodgan said.