The U.S. Air Force said on Thursday it expected to declare an initial squadron of Lockheed Martin Corp F-35 fighter jets ready for combat in coming months, as planned, underscoring the growing maturity of the Pentagon’s biggest weapons program.
General Hawk Carlisle, commander of U.S. Air Force Combat Command, said preparations for the declaration were going “exceptionally well,” and a decision should be announced soon.
He said he hoped to certify an “initial operational capability” or IOC of F-35 jets at the early end or “leading edge” of an August-to-December time frame set by the Air Force several years ago. He declined to say if the move would happen by Aug. 1, the target set by the Pentagon’s F-35 chief.
He said delays in completion of the latest software for the F-35’s computerized logistic system were “not a limiting factor” in his decision, since the current software worked during a recent test deployment from one Air Force base to another.
The new software package for the jet’s Autonomic Logistics Information System, or ALIS, is now expected to be completed in October or November, instead of August as expected, but Carlisle said the current version was sufficient to support a deployment.