Lt. Gen. Christopher Bogdan, F-35 program executive officer, expects the joint strike fighter to achieve close air support capability in 2017 when the Pentagon completes the aircraft’s block software update, Air Force Times reported Wednesday.
Bogdan told reporters after a House Armed Services hearing that the F-35 will then “be able to find, fix, track and target things that move and don’t move on the ground and be able to put precision weapons on them or shoot it with a gun, day, night and in the weather,” Brian Everstine reports.
The 3F software has been in flight testing and is scheduled for deployment in 2017 when the U.S. Air Force goes into full operation with F-35 and the Navy achieves initial operating capability with its carrier variant, according to the report.
The 3F update will introduce new features to the F-35 jet such as the ability to carry external weapons and use on-board sensors from a data link and a link 16 network connection in an allied aircraft, the report says.
Everstine writes the aircraft is meant to replace the Air Force’s legacy A-10, F-15s and F-16s.
Air Force Times reports 124 F-35 jets are flying at present out of the planned 2,443.