Expect a Slip

The Air Force likely will not have its first unit of combat-ready F-35 strike fighters available until late in calendar year 2015, Air Force Secretary Michael Donley confirmed Tuesday. “We have been taking a closer look in the past month at the [initial operational capability date],” he told reporters during a breakfast meeting in Washington, D.C. He added, “I do think we are going to have a slip.” Prior to the F-35 program restructure announced in February, the Air Force was targeting Fiscal 2013 for having its first operational F-35 unit in place. But now, after beginning to delve into the details of the restructure, and when there will be enough F-35A airframes available, the aircraft’s Block 3 software is ready, and initial operational testing is completed, the two-year-plus delay is the “latest and best estimate” that the Air Force now has, he said. Continue