The F-35 on Final Approach
The huge, hyper-complex F-35 strike fighter program, rightfully described as the Pentagon's most expensive—and most capable—fighter aircraft project ever, is only seven months away from its most critical milestone and acid test: operational service.
The program is tightly focused on giving the Marine Corps everything needed to declare initial operational capability with the F-35B variant by July 1, 2015. The list of essentials includes 10 identical aircraft with the 2B version of software, trained pilots and maintainers, an adequate stock of spare parts, and mission computers fully loaded with combat-relevant data. There's a countdown calendar in the program office's conference room, marking days to Marine Corps IOC, and for the Air Force's, 13 months later.
Photo by Lockheed Martin.