Modifications, Helmet Needed for Air Force F-35A IOC

Le Bourget, France With the Marine Corps bearing down on declaring initial operational capability for its F-35B short takeoff and vertical landing aircraft, Lockheed Martin and the US Air Force anticipate declaring initial operational capability on the F-35A between August and November 2016, Lockheed’s F-35 executive vice president told reporters during the Paris Air Show. The 3I software block, which will go in the IOC F-35A next year, has the same capabilities as the Marines’ Block 2B, but with two differences: an upgraded processor and the “gen 3” helmet, said F-35 Executive Vice President Lorraine Martin. “The Air Force has said it wants to go to IOC with the new helmet,” she said. To make sure 3I is ready to go, Lockheed Martin will take 12 USAF aircraft and ensure they are configured correctly with USAF-specific modification, she noted. The company also has some “enhancements” it wants to make to the Autonomic Logistics Information System (ALIS) for the F-35A, per USAF request, to ensure data can be distributed across multiple bases. The F-35A mods are less intensive than the USMC F-35B changes, since some of the Air Force’s airframes came off the production line in Fort Worth, Texas, more recently giving the company time to make most of the changes while the aircraft were still on the line. The pilot and maintainer training must also spool up, Martin said, as the first aircraft delivery to Hill AFB, Utah, is anticipated by the end of this year. (See also The Bumpy Path to F-35 IOC.)