Pentagon: F-35 Operational Flights to Start in 2015

Pentagon: F-35 Operational Flights to Start in 2015

The Marine Corps will begin operational flights of the F-35 fighter jet in 2015, followed by the Air Force in 2016 and the Navy in 2019, according to newly released information from the Defense Department.

The services were required to notify Congress by June 1 of the dates they expect to have enough aircraft in the fleet to support missions, a milestone known in military parlance as initial operating capability, or IOC.

The Marine Corps version of the jet, called the F-35B, which can take off like a helicopter and fly like a plane, will reach the milestone by December 2015; the Air Force’s by December 2016 and the Navy’s by February 2019, according to information provided by Marine Capt. Richard Ulsh, a spokesman for the service at the Pentagon.

“Our nation expects us to make informed decisions about developing and employing the most effective military capabilities to support our national security strategy,” Lt. Gen. Robert Schmidle, the Marine Corps’ deputy commandant of aviation, said in a statement. “The F-35 is the best hedge against the ever-evolving and unknown threats posed by potential adversaries.”

The schedule has been delayed by about three years due in part to problems developing the Lockheed Martin Corp.-made aircraft and its software.

The Marine Corps initially expected its version of the F-35 to be ready for operations in December 2012, according to program documents. The Navy and Air Force originally put the date at April 2016. The services were reluctant to update the timeline until getting a better sense of the aircraft’s performance in operational tests.

The notification was required by Congress and delivered to lawmakers on May 31, according to Ulsh.

It comes a week after the Defense Department released a report showing that the estimated cost to develop and build 2,457 F-35 Lighting IIs — the Pentagon’s most expensive weapons program, known as the Joint Strike Fighter — declined 1 percent in the past year to $391 billion due in part to decreased labor rates.

Fifty-two planes have been delivered to the military through 2012, including 14 test and 38 production aircraft, according to a March report from the Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress. The single-engine jet is designed to replace such aircraft as the F-16, A-10, F/A-18 and AV-8B.

The Pentagon next year plans to spend $8.4 billion to buy 29 F-35s, including 19 for the Air Force, six for the Marine Corps and four for the Navy, according to the budget request for fiscal 2014, which begins Oct. 1.

While lawmakers are drafting legislation that would fully fund the Pentagon’s request, they’re concerned that the slow pace of software development may delay the most lethal version of the aircraft.

The House Armed Services Tactical Air and Land Forces Subcommittee this month drafted legislation that would order the Pentagon to establish an independent team of subject matter experts to review software development for the program and submit a report to lawmakers by March 3, 2014.

The Air Force plans to start flying its version of the aircraft, or F-35A, in 2016 rather than the following year as previously planned by using software similar to the Marine Corps’ jump-jet variant. That installment, known as Block 2B, isn’t as lethal as the full software package.

The full package, known as Block 3F, is designed to support a suite of internal and external weapons, including the GPS-guided Joint Direct Attack Munition, laser-guided Paveway II bomb, Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile and infrared Sidewinder missile.

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Lt. Gen. Robert Schmidle, the Marine Corps’ deputy commandant of aviation, said in a statement. “The F-35 is the best hedge against the ever-evolving and unknown threats posed by potential adversaries.”
I have yet to see any published test data that supports this statement. The reports w/r/t the JSF/F-35 so far indicate that the mission profile requirements are constantly being scaled back so that the lackluster performance of the aircraft can be found “acceptable”.

And in the ingenious mindset of our armed services and its sickeningly ineffective/inefficient acquisition system, there are no other alternatives to this tax-payer-reaming corporate welfare program.

“The Marine Corps version of the jet, called the F-35B, which takes off like a helicopter and flies like a jet”

Wish I knew why they kept spreading this one. It /could/ take off like a helicopter if wanted to sacrifice takeoff weight; but it won’t in general practice.

It’s sad to see the Air Force follow the USMC lead in dumbing down their initial operating capability for the sake of making it look like the program is making progress. My guess is that this will be IOC in name only and that they (USAF) will be prudent and wait for the system to be mature enough with the right software to actually go to war.

The F-3$ program continues to lower the chinning bar.

STOVL, Short Take Off Vertical Landing.…and yes it can do vertical take offs for shipboard repositioning of a/c.

There is no “scaled back” in the mission profile for the F-35. The mission system program is still progressing (Block by Block in the SDD a/c ) and is tested for “all” of the original requirements. The Block 2B version is being tested now and will be released for use in the three versions of the F-35 later this summer. :)

Not according to this (amongst others): “Can’t turn, can’t climb, can’t run,“

Remember when pelosi said “we need to pass it to find out what is in it”

Now it is “We need to buy it before we find out how it dog fights”

I see a government trend here.

i hear the Chinese are building them to

Not. Even. Close.

We’re kind of desperate, and our choices are to make it look like there is progress fast enough to appease the pols, or the pols go to town and cancel more fighters and start the Death Spiral.

Even writing new the new software code would have been an interesting feat, let alone integrating it with code for hardware that was equally research-and-development as JSF itself; which doesn’t help anything.

“…Defense Department released a report showing that the estimated cost to develop and build 2,457 F-35 Lighting IIs declined 1 percent in the past year to $391 billion due in part to decreased labor rates.”

You can easily make projected decreases in the price when you decrease the performance requirements.

Oddly enough, the Chinese version is almost as accurate a copy of the F-35 as your post is grammatically correct, bob.

So the new superjet is delayed because of bad drivers? I know it is not a video card but geeze.

The brass wants to save JSF asap! Wait till more mechanical failure pleg the already pleged design and see JSF delayed more and more the B is a prime example of this.

Neither did the Harrier in general practice. Typically the only time it did a true vertical takeoff was to impress at airshows.

Of course that’s Winslow Wheeler, a guy who thinks the USAF should consist of the modern day equivalent of a F-16A, minus the radar. BVR doesn’t work according to him, so I’m sure all of those pilots will have an easy job dodging incoming active radar guided missiles. What’s the worst that can go wrong?

Various performance parameters (KPPs) have been relaxed over the aircraft’s development. Range is one, and that would affect certain mission profiles.

Go get them marines!
Looks like an AWESOME JET!

Of course this is William the Lockheed shill with his standard lies. The study was done by rand not Winslow Wheeler.

If you believe in the F-35 then you believe that the USAF navy and marine corps is about to commit suicide. The defense budget wont run to 3000 aircraft it can only buy around 250. Of course our resident shill will say why don’t they just steal the money ?

The VSTOL variant for the Corps is the best of bunch. This is where a competent Sec of Def. needs to establish a standard. 1 variant is cheaper to tool up in production and in an age of base closures and shrinking locations to establish friendly FOB’s it is the only option. This is taking too long to develop and production is too costly. The long delay has contributed to a seeming ability for the Chi-Coms to infiltrate and pilfer the technology.

The –B STOVL variant is the base variant, LockMart has confirmed that the others are designed around it. Personally, I agree the –B is the only variant worth pursuing anymore as the –A and –C variants will never be as good as a purpose designed CATOBAR or CTOL plane due to sharing many parts and much design with a STOVL plane, and the STOVL plane has very big size and weight limits. Case in point, from what’s been heard, the F-35 is roughly as good in agility as a F-18C. Great for STOVL, worse than what is already in frontline for CTOL and CATOBAR.

History is replete with examples of jets that looked “awesome” and which in reality turned out to be dismal operational and economic failures.

Aesthetics are not a reliable tool to assess warplanes. Analytics are. And the analytical picture for the F-35 in the majority of critically important warplane functions is looking horrible. Bad signature management. Low kinematic performance. Ineradicable weight issues. High acquisition cost. Low tolerance to damage.

Wrong according to Aviation Week today “JSF Gets A Schedule After Three Years“
. http://​www​.aviationweek​.com/​B​l​o​g​s​.​a​s​p​x​?​p​l​c​k​B​l​o​gId

well, the actual price for a F-35B is 250 mill/plane and this will not come down given the need for a lot of retrofixes. With Quantum radar on the horizon, let’s stop wasting our money on mediocre stealth planes. This century will be the century of the missile. Smart long-range hypersonic missiles launched from 747 arsenal planes will be lethal to Russian PAKFAs. Chinese submarines and North Korean bases.
Let’s not spend 500 billion on the F-35, let’s develop these next generation missiles which don’t care about quantum radar because they are hypersonic and remain deadly even when launched from an F-18

So the F-35B takes off vertically, then meets an in-flight refueling tanker, and continues mission. Wouldn’t that be how it was supposed to work in the 1st place?

I’m very much afraid that this aircraft will be the death of the US in a future war. The TV programs that I’ve seen say that the military expect it to remain the dominant aircraft for 15 years or so, but I doubt that estimate. They are relying on no other country developing an effective response for that amount of time.

In hindsight, it seems that it would have been far more efficient to have developed a task specific dog-fighter and a bomber for the AF, a new jump jet for the Marines, and an aircraft carrier compatible plane for the Navy. Yes, that would have required separate development projects for each aircraft, but the Russians and the Chinese aren’t going to be deferring to our planes because they are cheaper to maintain. They won’t care how they shoot them down — the heck with cheaper maintenance.

I hope that the F35 is the success the brass hope it will be … none of us want to see our pilots destroyed by the enemy.


I surmise that the need to get the aircraft in service but incapable of doing their combat role is to buy enough that Congress will feel that they can’t kill or reduce the program. Sadly the Harrier entered service with a great many unknowns and many aircraft were lost find our mechanical, electrical and employment issues. So, I won’t be surprised that we have come a long way since McNamara and the F-111 (for everyone) was killed. One airframe and many missions and flight environments is a joke. The only thing that this program has proven to do well is to employ a great many contractors and industry. On the navy side.…it is called “Keeping the shipyards open.” The need to keep industry alive is one thing but accepting aircraft before they are ready is another. So, lets buy them now and fix them later.…hmmm.…how has it worked so far? Good luck!


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