The UK declared major milestones for its Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning and Eurofighter Typhoon forces on 10 January.
Speaking at Royal Air Force (RAF) Marham, Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson and Chief of the Air Staff Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen Hillier declared initial operating capability (IOC) Land (L) for the F-35B and IOC for the multirole Project Centurion weapons configuration of the Eurofighter Typhoon FGR4.
IOC L for the F-35B is marked by having nine aircraft ready to deploy on combat operations anywhere around the world, and sees the platform cleared to carry the Raytheon AIM-120 Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile (AMRAAM), the MBDA AIM-132 Advanced Short-Range Air-to-Air Missile (ASRAAM), and the Raytheon Paveway IV laser-guided bomb (LGB).
Project Centurion involved the Typhoon being modified to carry the MBDA Meteor beyond-visual range air-to-air missile (BVRAAM) and MBDA Storm Shadow cruise missile. The first project Centurion aircraft were delivered to the RAF in July 2018, and with IOC the configuration is now cleared for combat operations.
Having been declared to be combat ready the F-35B could be deployed on operations as early as the second quarter of 2019, with Williamson telling reporters that the aircraft could be flying counter-Islamic State missions from RAF Akrotiri in Cyprus in the spring. While the Typhoon is currently deployed on combat operations against the Islamic State in Syria, it has to date been limited to using the already integrated Paveway IV LGB as well as its internal Mauser BK 27 27 mm cannon. Those aircraft now flying out of RAF Akrotiri will likely be replaced by Project Centurion platforms over the coming weeks.
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