Pentagon acquisition head Ashton Carter has told a US Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) hearing in Washington that the USAF’s and US Navy’s planned Initial Operational Capability (IOC) milestones for the F-35A and F-35C JSFs have been delayed another 12 months.
Carter told the SASC that USAF and US Navy officials had reassessed their definitions of what IOC meant to them in the wake of last month’s program restructure. As a consequence, both the USAF and US Navy have postponed their IOCs to 2016, while the US Marine Corps is holding fast to its 2012 milestone, despite operational testing not being due to commence until January 2015.
Until February’s program review by US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, the USAF had been predicting a 2013 IOC, with the US Navy due to follow in 2014. Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Gary Roughead has told the SASC that he didn’t expect the amended IOC to affect the F-35C’s first scheduled carrier deployment in late 2016. “I’m going to watch it like a hawk,” he said. “I’m going to pay very, very close attention to it. But we’re setting up to still be able to deploy onboard the (USS) Carl Vinson in December of 16.”