Following two decades rife with anticipation, the F-35 is decidedly up, flying and declared war-ready by the U.S. Marine Corps, causing teams across Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division (NAWCWD) to celebrate as their contributions to the interoperable machine prepare to enter the arena.
The F-35B Lightning Joint Strike Fighter was given initial operational capability (IOC) status after the baseline requirement of 10 aircraft was considered ready on July 31. The following week, the F-35 team at NAWCWD took what Capt. Dana Dewey, director of program control for the F-35 Lightning II Joint Program Office, called a “much-deserved moment” to reflect.
“It’s a huge milestone for a program that’s been in development for more than two decades,” Dewey said. “That we now have the first baseline warfighting capability in the hands of the warfighter is a big deal.”
Dewey noted that NAWCWD teams at Point Mugu and China Lake have been instrumental in ensuring successful delivery of the first F-35Bs to the Marines, enabling them to properly equip, train and operate the 10 aircraft.
The window for delivery was set for some time between July and December 2015, Dewey said.
“The fact the team was able to deliver that capability at the front end of that window, essentially meeting our objective five months prior to that end date is huge,” he added. “It’s pretty tremendous accomplishment, and you should be proud of your work.”
Mark Haase, F-35 program site director for NAWCWD, praised the team and noted that they had played a significant role in mission and weapons systems development on the engineering side. NAWCWD also supported numerous systems and flight tests on its three ranges.
“Then there’s the reprogramming team, which includes a Navy team at Eglin Air Force Base,” Haase said. “There has been great cooperation between the Air Force and the Navy to put that effort together.”
Dewey and Haase, with help from Andrew Chen, lead for the F-35 Reprogramming Center West at Point Mugu, held cake cuttings at Point Mugu and China Lake to celebrate the IOC declaration.
“The team has been running at full speed for a long time,” Haase said. “It’s great to be able to look back and take a breather.”
Additional reporting by Brian Wulfekotte, NAWCWD
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