It’s official. Commander Sara “Clutch” Joyner told the big crowd at Tailhook 09 in Reno over the weekend that the Navy air warfare staff is indeed moving F-35C initial operating capability to 2014. That’s a year earlier than the planned date of 2015, and Joyner said it was all about getting the F-35 out to the fleet as soon as possible.
The Navy still has a potential strike fighter shortfall, and speeding up F-35 will help. But another reason to move toward stealth lies in the growing Navy concerns about China’s capabilities in the Pacific. As Admiral Willard at Pacific Fleet told fleet pilots last year, the adversary in the Pacific “thinks he can defeat you, your airplane, your tactics and your sensors.” High-intensity conflict may be out of fashion in Washington but it looks awfully real from the bridge of the carrier.