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F-35B put on 2-year probation   (Source: Lockheed Martin)
The Air Force may finally get a new tanker next month while F-35B is on probation

Any major program to procure new aircraft for the U.S. military is going to be long and the competition between bidders will be fierce since the contracts can be worth billions. One of these important and very costly projects for new aircraft is the F-35 project with versions slated for use in three branches of the military.

The USAF has noted that the initial operational capability (IOC) date for the F-35 is likely to slip beyond current projections. The revelation came from Air Force Secretary Michael Donley at a breakfast with reporters on January 12.

The reason for the delay in the IOC for the F-35 aircraft program came after a detailed Technical Baseline Review by Ashton Carter, the DoD procurement chief, and Joint Strike Fighter program manager Vice Adm. David Venlet. The report concluded that additional time and money was needed to complete the development of the F-35.

Donley said, "I think that's [delays in the IOC] implied with the additional dollars and time required in system development."

The biggest change in the F-35 program to come after the review was that the F-35B vertical landing variant of the aircraft has been put on a two-year probationary period. The F-35B was also decoupled from the carrier and conventional versions of the fighter to avoid delaying the other two versions significantly. The UK armed forces have already decided not to buy the F-35B, and will be ordering the carrier version instead.

Donley said, "The major decision from this TBR has been to decouple the testing of the U.S. Marine short take-off vertical-landing variant from the conventional and carrier variants to ensure we do not slow progress on the conventional and carrier variants."

Another even higher profile project that the Air Force is working on is the long running and problem plagued replacement for the aerial tankers in use. The drama surrounding the bidding process has gone on for years and a winner still hasn’t been selected. 

According to Defense News, EADS has stated that it expects the Air Force to pick a tanker in February. EADS also expects that it will be chosen the winner over rival Boeing.

EADS of North America CEO Sean O'Keefe said, "The contract award, which was announced as part of the request-for-proposal solicitation, was to have been around the middle of November last year. It has moved further toward next month, just as a consequence of due diligence."

The contract was supposed to have been awarded in November of 2010, but was delayed again. The DoD is seeking to make the award "not contestable" to avoid a rehash of what happened with the first contract award.

O'Keefe said, "Every indication would suggest that next month is more likely to be the contract award targeting period."

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RE: It's now official
By Master Kenobi on 1/13/2011 6:20:21 PM , Rating: 4
The A-10 is a beauty. Frankly the F-35 will never replace the A-10. The A-10 is a close air support platform, much like the AC-130 gunships. The F-35 still flies too damn fast to be of any real use in that situation.

RE: It's now official
By sorry dog on 1/16/2011 1:06:29 PM , Rating: 2
I think the A-10 is cool as hell.

But I gather the AF regards it's future as limited because it is increasing vulnerable in hostile areas at low altitude due to increasing availability, portability, and sophistication of anti-aircraft systems to most anyone. So they have to set minimum altitudes better the odds for the greater loss rate of the A-10 compared to other manned planes is unacceptable. The problem is that the A-10 is much less effective at medium altitudes. You could maybe make a less vulnerable CAS aircraft, but anything that goes low and slow will forever more have the odds deck stacked against it. the unmanned platforms start to look better since you can take a higher loss rate.

So no the F-35 won't replace the A-10, but the combination of other systems possibly can... well I guess that's the plan anyway.

RE: It's now official
By a1trips on 1/18/2011 12:06:26 PM , Rating: 2
yeah, the flying tank. sooner or later a variant with swarm control capabilities comes along and ..oh

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