US Navy ‘Confident’ F-35Cs Will Be Combat Ready On Time

The United States Navy is likely to hit a goal set in 2013 to prepare the F-35C Joint Strike Fighter for combat by February 2019, according to a new report.

Snafus with the potential to derail the F-35 program have not happened in recent months, Military.com reported Friday. The Navy’s Joint Strike Fighter Fleet Integration Office is “confident,” therefore, that it will meet program milestones “as planned,” spokeswoman Lt. Lauren Chatmas said in a Friday statement to military.com.

With a projected lifecycle cost in excess of $1.5 trillion, the Pentagon’s F-35 Joint Strike Fighter is the most expensive military program in the United States’ history. A lone F-35C squadron dubbed the “Argonauts” earned a safety certification aboard the USS Carl Vinson in early December.

The Defense Department targeted initial operational capability (IOC) for the F-35C on a rough schedule anywhere from August 2018 to February 2019, according to a departmental report dated June 2013. If the IOC testing is completed successfully by next month’s end, the program will be hitting its “threshold” mark for IOC; August 2018 was the “objective” for when it should have been wrapped up.

Instead, Navy-specific testing started in September.

Navy officials previously blamed the sputtering IOC testing schedule on the Defense Department’s habit of missing deadlines. “The whole F-35 enterprise’s IOT&E [initial operational test and evaluation] starts in September, so it’s not Navy’s F-35C…

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