Donley: New F-35 Restructure Implies IOC Slip

The Pentagon’s newly announced changes to the F-35 strike fighter’s development schedule likely will delay when the Air Force’s first combat-ready F-35A unit will be ready, according to USAF Secretary Michael Donley. “I think that’s implied with the additional dollars and time required in system development,” he said, when asked about this, during his Air Force Association-sponsored Air Force Breakfast Series presentation in Arlington, Va. He did not provide additional details during his Wednesday talk. Before this new program restructure, 2016 had been the Air Force’s target IOC, or in-service date, for the F-35A. The Pentagon is extending F-35 development from mid 2015 into early 2016 to account for challenges encountered mostly, but not exclusively, in maturing the Marine Corps F-35B short takeoff and vertical landing variant. Donley said this extension is necessary because there’s “more work to be done” on testing and software. He said these changes mean an “even more conservative approach to production rates,” meaning flat F-35 deliveries for about two years. Development of the F-35A and Navy F-35C model has been progressing “satisfactorily,” noted Defense Secretary Robert Gates last week. (See also F-35 fact sheet discussing the restructure)