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As the Pentagon decides what new combat capabilities to “bake” into the Block 4 configuration of the Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, there is concern about planned upgrades sliding beyond Block 3F, and about the overall price tag as those modifications are rolled out in the early 2020s.
“We’ve seen programmes where our appetite is more than we can afford,” Maj Gen Jeffrey Harrigian, who heads the US Air Force F-35 integration office, said at a recent Mitchell Institute event in Washington, DC.
The air force expects its first squadron of 12 to 14 A-model F-35s in the baseline Block 3i configuration to be ready for combat in a limited capacity by August 2016. But each aircraft will need to be modified to achieve “full warfighting capability” with the full suite of armaments and improvements provided in the subsequent Block 3F and Block 4 upgrades.