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Hill Reacts to F-35 IOC Shift

The Joint Strike Fighter's initial operational capability date may shift substantially to the right. That's according to the general who runs Air Combat Command, Gen. William Fraser, who spoke to reporters this afternoon at the Air Force Association's annual winter conference in Orlando.

The general said the program's restructuring will stretch the System Design and Development phase out to 2015, two years later than planned.

The latest news from the Air Force rankled a congressional aide who follows the program. While the aide would not detail possible legislative language in reaction to the likely Nunn-McCurdyl breach and the IOC shift, it was clear that it will do nothing but reinforce lawmakers' comitment to the F136.

I asked the aide in an email if lawmakers had concerns sparked by the latest news. Here's the answer: "Certainly, since Gates sat there and basically said there was no change!" Then the aide swung into Gen. Norton Schwartz, Air Force chief of staff: "We pretty much knew about Nunn-McCurdy and that Schwartz was just clueless and apparently had not been briefed. He has and will again acknowledge that next week."

Then the aide swung back at Gates, saying that the demise of the F-22 means "there are now very few options for Gates or Congress. Anything done will result in greater costs in the long run. They have made their bed and now they are stuck with having to sleep with do do between the sheets. All staff can do is recommend to members that whatever screwed up program that they have that the risk to operational readiness is unacceptable without a competitive engine program. Everyone acknowledges this off the record, except Gates."

Gen. Fraser told reporters at the AFA conference that the service is also looking at how that extension will affect the number of aircraft, trained aircrew and spare parts the service has available by 2013.

"The IOC focus is on combat capability, not on a date," he said.

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