Lockheed Martin’s in the home stretch of providing the assets needed for the Air Force to declare initial operational capability with the F-35A in the August-December timeframe, company program manager Jeff Babione told reporters at AWS16. “They do need a few things from us” before that happens, Babione said, and the company is still aiming for the “front end” of the time window. While seven of the 12-24 aircraft required for minimum IOC are already at Hill AFB, Utah, Lockheed expects to deliver five or six more by August; those jets are now on the assembly line. USAF also wants the Autonomic Logistics Information System (ALIS) version 2.0.2, and some other things, like Generation III helmets, Babione said. Prior to IOC, USAF is planning a deployment with its operational aircraft to try them out in exercise conditions, as the Marine Corps did before going IOC with the F-35B last July. USAF’s test squadron has deployed a number of F-35s to Mountain Home AFB, Idaho, in a dry run of the evaluation. The operational jets will have to demonstrate close air support, interdiction, and a “limited” Suppression or Destruction of Enemy Air Defenses (SEAD/DEAD) capability to be considered IOC, Babione said, noting that Air Combat Command chief Gen. Hawk Carlisle “ultimately” will decide “as to whether or not they are ready.” The IOC jets will have the 3i version of the software; “essentially the same” as the 2B version flown by the Marine Corps, “hosted on a faster processor,” he noted.
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