Despite recent media reports that the F-35’s GAU-22 25mm gun and electro-optical targeting system (EOTS) don’t work—especially for the close air support mission—the two are progressing at the planned schedule, the F-35 System Program Office said Wednesday. While the online Daily Beast said the F-35A won’t be able to fire its gun until 2019, the SPO said through spokesman Joseph DellaVedova that the gun was always planned to be operational with the 3F block of software in 2017, and nothing has changed since the development plan was decided in 2005. While a “minor, low-level issue” with software for the gun was discovered during testing in December, this is the kind of thing testing is supposed to find, and “there is no anticipated impact to schedule gun testing or fielding,” DellaVedova said. The GAU-22 external gun pod for the F-35B version—which cannot carry it internally due to the lift-fan mechanism that permits vertical flight—will also be operational in 2017, he said. The Air Force plans to declare initial operational capability with the F-35A in August of 2016 with the 3i software version. Like the Marine Corps with its 2B software, the initial USAF version will have capability for air-to-air missiles and JDAM bombs; the gun will join the mix with the later 3F software.
Robins Air Force Base, Ga., has completed two environmental reviews, clearing the way for new construction to support the bases four new missions sets, which will replace the E-8 Joint STARS mission that has defined the base for decades.