Very comprehensive report from the Heritage Foundation on the current state of the F-35 program and some very clear recommendations available below. Clearly the USAF has a lot of confidence in the aircraft, as do the aircrew. The F-35A Fighter Is the Most Dominant and Lethal Multi-Role Weapons System in the World: Now Is the Time to Ramp Up Production
https://www.heritage.org/sites/default/ ... BG3406.pdf
The U.S. Air Force’s first F-35A fighter wing is now fully operational.
The road to this point has been filled with insights on the aircraft, simulator, maintenance and logistical support, and operations that will apply to any service or nation flying the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF). This assessment is based on interviews with 30 F-35A combat pilots as well as senior operations and maintenance leaders at Hill Air Force Base in Utah. It follows a similar assessment from 2016 of 31 other highly experienced former fourth-generation fighter pilots, who were then flying the F-35A at two other Air Force locations. The collective perspectives confirm that, while the JSF is still several years away from realizing its full potential, even now, the F-35A is the most dominant and lethal multi-role aircraft in the world.
Some interesting comments in the document,
Fighter pilots currently flying the jet believe the latest software update brought full warfighting capabilities to the F-35A and that it is virtually undefeatable. They rate the F-35A’s handling and dogfighting characteristics above that of their previous jets.
Air Force strategic plan execution to rapidly build maintenance experience and prepare for the expansion of the F-35A community has been exceptional. Now, the defense industry and the government must improve maintenance, supply, and scheduling
The recommendations from the report are the following,
The U.S. Congress should fund and authorize the Air Force to purchase 72 F-35As in the National Defense Authorization Act for 2020, and 360 over the Five-Year Defense Plan (FYDP).
The Department of Defense should approve full-rate production of the F-35A, and move to field the F-35A as rapidly as possible. The DOD should forego the acquisition of fourth-generation F-15EX fighters, and acquire 72 F-35As in 2020, while also funding the associated spare parts accounts.
The F-35 Joint Program Office should:
Repair the visual challenges and conflicts within the HMDS as an urgent operational requirement.
Elevate the requirement for and adequately fund a robust embedded training suite of capabilities within the F-35. That suite should include user-friendly software that has a selection of both canned (pre-programmed) and tailorable mission scenarios, and a level of fidelity that allows multi-ship F-35A packages to find, fix, sort, and target layered SAM systems that are pulled from the jet’s threat library.
Install concurrent software updates for the F-35A simulator in line with those made to the aircraft.
More rapidly improve F-35A Distributed Mission Training to increase the number of simulators connected through the Distributed Mission Training System to the standard number of aircraft in an LFE package.
Improve user transparency of its global parts supply system for the F-35A, accelerate the delivery of those parts, provide users with visibility of those parts as they are in transit, and bring delivery schedules for those parts up to modern-day global-supply-chain-management standards.
Increase the number of personnel dedicated to resolving maintenance action requests (ARs) and the number of teams it makes available for on-site troubleshooting.
Increase parts availability and maintenance visibility into parts sourcing, improve scheduling, and rapidly increase the joint technical data available to maintenance personnel.
The Air Force should:
Increase the average number of sorties for line fighter pilot wingmen, flight leads, and instructors to a minimum of three flights in the aircraft a week to grow or sustain their skill sets, as well as grow the F-35A experience
level with the CAF. In order to accomplish that, it should institute aggressive flying-hour contracts in all wings operating at or above IOC to grow the breadth of fighter and maintenance experience as rapidly as possible.
Segregate the costs associated with overloading unit maintenance manning for the sake of expediting the spin-up of future F-35A bed-down locations, and exclude those costs from F-35A O&M cost calculations.
The Joint Strike Fighter program has endured its share of growing pains, but the F-35A is now fully operational, and those flying the jet have complete confidence in its ability to operate in and around the most intense threat environments in the world. While it will take several more years before the jet, its simulators, maintenance, and logistical support fully realize their potential, the technical issues that limited the early operational employment of the JSF have been overcome, and there is no doubt in the minds of those flying the F-35A at Hill AFB that, even now, this is the most dominant and lethal multi-role weapons system in the world. It is time to field this game-changing weapons system as rapidly as possible.