The last four F-35B Joint Strike Fighters the Marine Corps needs to declare initial operational capability will be delivered on 30 June, in time for an operational readiness inspection targeted for the second week of July.
That’s the assessment of Lockheed Martin's F-35 programme chief Lorraine Martin, who is closely monitoring the countdown to delivery of the final four.
Marine Corps IOC is the first major marker for the programme since it was revised and re-baselined in 2010, and Martin expects to hit that contractual target.
“They’ll be ready,” she tells Flightglobal. “That’s my goal. I watch it every day.”
“I plan to have everything ready,” she says, adding that the latest ALIS (autonomic logistics information system) configuration is being installed and will be ready in the next couple of days.
Activity has hit a crescendo at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Arizona, which is home to the Green Knights – the first operational F-35B squadron.
Once everything is in place, an independent team will come in and assess the squadron’s readiness and report back to deputy commandant for Marine Corps aviation, Lt Gen Jon Davis.
If Davis is satisfied that the squadron has the manpower, equipment and spare parts in place, he will inform the Marine commandant and IOC will be declared.
The decision will come 14 years after the start of F-35 development. Asked if after all those years the US and its allies are receiving a superior weapon to what’s on the battlefield today, Martin said she has "no doubt".
“The customers we support who have all the information they need to have to have comfort in that, they have no doubt,” she adds. She says since the initial design, the aircraft has received new processors and the latest parts.
She is also wholly committed to delivering every capability that was promised for Block 3F, which is currently in integration and testing. That statement comes despite talk of weapons and capabilities “slipping” from Block 3F to Block 4 – a configuration that is being defined right now and will be delivered in increments from about 2019 through to 2025.
“None are slipping out of 3F,” she says. “We’re doing them all. We’re now in full integration and test, we’re not building [Block 3F] software anymore.”
Lockheed notes that despite reports, since the re-baslining the programme has not slipped schedule or cost. Martin says she is adamant that the F-35 can hit all its major targets going forward, including US Air Force IOC in 2016.
She says as development wraps up by 2017 and squadrons go operational, attention on the programme will turn to actually employing the weapon system as well as establishing tactics and new concepts of operation.