Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Harrigian, director of the U.S. Air Force’s F-35 Integration Office, has said the branch needs more than 1,100 airmen to maintain F-35 fighter jets in order to achieve initial operating capability by August 2016 and become fully operational beyond the target date, Defense News reported Thursday.
Brian Everstine writes the military branch started the transfer of 18 A-10 support attack aircraft to backup status earlier this year as part of a compromise in the Defense Authorization Act for fiscal 2015.
“The plan to get to IOC is solid, but as we move beyond IOC, we’ve got some work to do to sort out, through accessions, what’s the right level we have to have in our maintenance fleet,” Harrigian said.
Harrigian told the publication the service has not yet received the first dozen of F-35 planes from Lockheed Martin necessary to set up the initial operational squadron at Hill Air Force Base in Utah and a plan needs to be crafted this fall to address the demand for F-35 maintainers.
He added the service’s move over F-35s relies on Congress as lawmakers consider a fiscal 2016 defense bill, which seeks to block the retirement of A-10s.