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originally posted by: Zaphod58
a reply to: Terminal1
It's Initial Operating(or Operational, I've seen both) Capability. It means that they have a set number of aircraft (it varies from country to country and service to service), they're combat coded (meaning they have production systems and sensors on board, not just test systems), are certified for at least a basic weapons load (in the case of the F-35, basic air to ground and air to air weapons), and can be used in combat.
Once IOC is achieved, the aircraft is considered operational. It's not completely operational until FOC is achieved, usually anywhere from 2-5 years after IOC. Once FOC is achieved, all the weapons designed for the aircraft are integrated and ready for use, as are all the sensors and systems.