Feb 17, 2017
US Air Force must retrofit 108 F-35As
The air force is now facing a fleet of 108 F-35As that must be retrofitted from the Block 2B or 3i configuration, Lt Gen Jerry Harris, USAF deputy chief of staff for strategic plans and requirements, states in a 16 February testimony to Congress. The USAF and the F-35 Joint Programme Office are working together on a Block 3F upgrade plan.
When the USAF declared its F-35A variant ready for limited combat last August, the service’s chief of Air Combat Command noted the aircraft still needed significant and would gain greater capabilities with impending software and hardware upgrades. Block 3F and 4, which the USAF expects will be available in 2018 and 2021, will increase the F-35’s weapons capacity and improve targeting.
Twenty-six of those 108 aircraft will require a software-only upgrade, according to Harris. In addition to software modifications, 19 aircraft will also require new signal processor cards which the service says will take an average of three days to install and test. The service must install 18 aircraft with a newer helmet mounted display system, in addition to the processor cards and software, which will take 15 days to install.
“The remaining forty-five aircraft will require significant hardware modifications in the form of a Tech Refresh 2 modification,” Harris states. “This modification consists of twenty-six major components and takes approximately 30 days per aircraft to install and checkout.”
The USAF’s operational test aircraft also require Block 3F hardware modifications. But with availability of the full fleet of 23 aircraft projected in 2018, those modifications have fallen behind.