Without further software snags, the operational fleet aircraft at Eglin and Yuma are slated to receive the 2A software in the third quarter of this year. The operational fleet is currently using release Block 1B, dubbed the “Initial Training” software, which gives crews basic radar modes and flight envelope capability. The Block 2A release is made of more than 8 million lines of code and represents around 86% of the ultimate extent of the aircraft’s software.
According to O’Bryan, the Block 2A software will bring new training capabilities including access to electronic warfare systems, air-to-air and air-to-ground modes for the AN/APG-81 radar as well as use of Electro-Optical Targeting System (EOTS), the Infrared Search and Track (IRST) and some of the “classified systems.”
The release will also include simulated weaponry such as laser-guided Joint Direct Attack Munitions and AIM-120 Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missiles. Actual weapon release software will come with the Block 2B update that will be hosted on flight test aircraft later this year, giving the type what Lockheed Martin refers to as an “initial warfighting” capability. This is not due to be featured on the fleet until mid-2015, pushing back the introduction of releases 3I (Initial) and 3F (Final).
According to O’Bryan, both Israel and Japan have signed letters of agreement for the F-35A, and discussions with the Japanese are ongoing for a final assembly and checkout facility that could be delivering aircraft from 2017. The facility at Cameri will build both Italian F-35 A and B models, as well as aircraft destined for the Netherlands.
Italy will receive its first aircraft in 2015 and Australia will get its F-35s in 2014. Israel and Japan will receive their first aircraft in 2016. The U.K. is set to receive its third aircraft, BK-3, this spring. It is set to be delivered to MCAS Beaufort, where training will begin alongside crews from the U.S. Marine Corps. The fourth U.K. F-35, BK-4, will be another instrumented aircraft, and will be operated alongside BK1 and 2 at Eglin.