The 12 aircraft that will comprise the first operational squadron of Air Force F-35As are still under construction, service F-35 integration director Maj. Gen. Jeff Harrigian said during an AFA Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies event. F-35A number “77 is the first IOC bird, and it’s still at Ft. Worth,” Texas, where Lockheed Martin builds the aircraft. After construction, though, the jets will need to undergo modifications to get up to the planned standard configuration. Asked why the production line simply can’t convert to the new standard, Harrigian said, “We like to think it’s easy [but] it’s hard” to make those changes. “You have to have the parts and then … figure out a way to do it,” he said during a May 21 AFA Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies event in Arlington, Va. However, all the parts have been built and set aside for the initial operational capability jets. “Some [mods] are done at Hill” AFB, Utah, where the first squadron will declare IOC, because that’s where the Air Force’s F-35 depot is located. Other changes will be made to jets at their operating location, such as Eglin AFB, Fla., and Luke AFB, Ariz., he added.
Boeing’s receipt of the 10th lot contract award for the KC-46 Pegasus this week leaves just three lots left to complete the Air Force’s buy of the tanker, although a further buy of 75 additional aircraft as a “bridge” to the Next-Generation Aerial-refueling System (NGAS) seems increasingly likely.