The first Joint Strike Fighter squadron met operational readiness requirements, making at least 12 F-35s ready for combat next week.
Mechanics have completed modifications on the F-35 A that were necessary before the aircraft could be declared “ready,” reported Defense News.
“We have achieved all our milestones,” Lt. Col. Steven Anderson, deputy commander of the maintenance group responsible for the F-35A squadron, told Defense News. All that is needed is a signature from Gen. Herbert “Hawk” Carlisle, chief of the Air Combat Command.
If the F-35 is declared combat-ready next week, it will be early in the Air Force’s timeline. Three years ago, the Pentagon projected that the Air Force’s F-35s would be ready by Dec. 2016.
The modifications included a much-needed update to the jet’s software, which was supposed to be able to detect and track threats on its own. The system hasn’t worked as expected.(RELATED: The F-35 Doesn’t Know What’s Shooting At It)
All the software issues have been adequately fixed, even though it’s not exactly as amazing as expected, according to Carlisle, who will ultimately approve the jets for combat.
“We’ve deployed with the current software we had and it worked,” Carlisle told Defense News. The Marine Corps, who declared operational readiness on the slightly different F-35B, are using the updated software successfully, according to Carlisle. “It’s not quite up to where we wanted to be, but there’s workarounds,” Carlisle said.
The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter has faced more than just software issues over 15 years of development. Last year, investigators discovered that the ejection seats caused fatal injuries. Officials canceled the initial unveiling of the F-35 in the UK when one jet’s engine caught fire during a test flight.
Officials are now confident that the F-35 are ready for prime time, and expect the stealth jet to be a vital part of the U.S. military. “The F-35 is operational, and the program is rapidly accelerating,” Joe DellaVedova, spokesman for the F-35 Joint Program Office told The Daily Caller News Foundation in July. “The F-35 is going to form the backbone of air combat superiority for decades to come.”
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