Upgraded F-35 Deliveries Delayed to Mid-2024; USAF Prioritizes New Items within the Meantime

The primary F-35s with the Tech Refresh-3 improve—largely a processor improve upon which the Block 4 configuration of the fighter will experience—will likely be delivered earlier than the center of subsequent 12 months, a Lockheed Martin spokesperson mentioned Sept. 6.

Beforehand, TR-3 jets have been forecast to develop into obtainable within the final quarter of calendar 2023.

Within the meantime, the Air Power is prioritizing deliveries of jets with the TR-2 configuration to new F-35 items, in accordance with Gen. Mark Kelly, head of Air Fight Command.

Plane that come off Lockheed’s meeting line with the TR-3 {hardware} will likely be saved till testing clears them for acceptance by the companies—flight testing started in January and continues to be ongoing. However the final plane delivered to the Air Power with the TR-2 configuration are earmarked for brand new F-35 bases, like Tyndall Air Power Base, Fla., Kelly mentioned.   

“Now we have up to date our F-35 TR-3 schedule projections with a primary TR-3 plane supply between April and June 2024,” the Lockheed spokesperson mentioned.

“Because of this, we now count on to ship 97 plane in 2023, all within the TR-2 configuration. We’re persevering with plane manufacturing at a price of 156 per 12 months whereas concurrently working to finalize TR-3 software program growth and testing. Moreover, we stay targeted on receiving the required {hardware} from our suppliers to ship this vital fight functionality for the F-35.”

Kelly, talking on the Protection Information convention in Arlington, Va., mentioned a workforce comprised of ACC officers and the workplace of the deputy chief of workers for operations have labored out “a fairly elaborate plan” which can “not delay the preliminary arrival of airplanes” at new F-35 bases.

He famous that Tyndall “simply bought their first 4 airplanes; we didn’t need to delay that. I consider that Alabama and the opposite items which are slated to get F-35s will get them on time.” The precedence for brand new bases is to allow them to begin to develop into practiced at working and sustaining the jets as quickly as potential, to make simpler the absorption of extra new jets later.

Nevertheless, delay in follow-on deliveries to the brand new working areas “will take an influence” on the fight air forces, Kelly mentioned, “relying on the quantity of the delay.”

Kelly mentioned the Air Power wants the TR-3 with all potential velocity, as a result of “the high-end software program, high-end {hardware}, high-end EW (digital warfare) is difficult enterprise.”

“However we keep in lockstep with our business companions. And we have to lock arms and assist them work via this as a workforce, however there will likely be impacts,” he added.

When a unit converts to new airplane, Kelly mentioned, “often by the point they get their final airplane, the clock begins, and so they should be able to go [to war] a 12 months or so later. Properly, that can delay and that can influence” the World Power Administration system.

Items within the strategy of receiving new tools gained’t be again in rotation for ahead deployments on time, and that can have an effect on USAF’s readiness, Kelly mentioned.

The Air Power has lengthy mentioned it prefers to purchase the minimal variety of F-35s potential till the Block 4 is prepared, and Kelly emphasised the service will proceed to function as finest it could till TR-3 is prepared. Nevertheless, the upgrades are key to the long run struggle, he mentioned.

“The entire thought of a difficult peer state of affairs is a really difficult electromagnetic spectrum [fight] and really succesful threats,” Kelly mentioned. “And if we’re going to interact that spectrum or have interaction these threats, we’ve bought to have the quickest processing, one of the best jamming, probably the most coherent waveforms obtainable. And that takes a extremely, actually agile, secure software program load to unlock these Block 4 {hardware}” [capabilities] and unlock the EW. That’s type of the key sauce that we’re going to want.”

Lt. Gen. James C. Slife—simply nominated to develop into the brand new Air Power vice chief—echoed Kelly’s feedback and added that “I want we had the flexibility, when a disaster pops up someplace across the globe, to have the ability to consider it and say, ‘Does this disaster want a TR-3 Block 35 or is a TR-2 Block 35 adequate?’”

As an alternative, the Air Power is flying on “the knife fringe of functionality” as a result of it’s in need of fighters, he mentioned.

“It’s frankly … examine your pockets, see what you’ve in your pocket. And that’s what goes. So getting these jets on time and fielded is completely vital to our potential to fulfill the worldwide demand sign on a day after day foundation,” Slife mentioned.

The Lockheed spokesperson mentioned the TR-3 “stays our No. 1 growth precedence. We’re making use of vital experience to ship TR-3, with greater than 500 staff, 15 labs and flight check occurring at Edwards Air Power Base and Naval Air Station Patuxent River.”

The software program testing schedule has been delayed, the spokesperson mentioned, “attributable to surprising challenges related to {hardware} and software program growth, element and system integration testing and qualification testing.” The Built-in Core Processor, which is the center of the TR-3, is being constructed by L3Harris.

“Now we have deployed staff to L3Harris to assist expedite {hardware} supply and are working diligently with Raytheon on their supply of the Subsequent-Gen Electro-Optical Digital Aperture System (EODAS), which may also be built-in with TR-3,” the spokesperson mentioned.