An issue with the F-35‘s ejection seat has grounded lightweight pilots from flying the aircraft, according to a report by Defense News. The issue was uncovered during testing in August and the restriction (of pilots weighing less than 136lb) is reportedly only an interim measure until the manufacturer – Martin-Baker – can develop a solution to the problem in cooperation with the F-35’s Joint Program Office and Lockheed Martin. Fighter ejection seats are supposed to be capable of accommodating pilots weighing between 103 and 246lbs.
The Air Force could deploy F-35As as soon as they reach Initial Operating Capability (IOC), according to the head of the aircraft’s Integration Program Office. With the Air Force scheduled to operate a squadron of operational F-35s by the beginning of August 2016, the three missions likely to be tasked to these 12 to 14 aircraft are close air support, interception of enemy aircraft and suppression of enemy air defenses (SEAD). The first of these is becoming increasingly controversial, given the Joint Strike Fighter’s fist fight external link with the combat-proven A-10, while SEAD is closer to the original mission set intended for the F-35.
However, the Air Force first needs to rectify its current poor availability rate before IOC and deployment of its F-35s can take place. The Automated Logistics Information System (ALIS) is proving to be a problem for the Air Force and will likely be the most significant obstacle ahead of achieving IOC next year. Despite recent software upgrades, the ALIS system is proving to be a sticking point, with an accelerated production schedule likely to place increasing logistical demands on both the supply base and Air Force.