Brig. Gen. Scott L. Pleus, Director of the F-35 Integration Office, U.S Air Force, visited the IAF last week in order to strengthen IAF-USAF cooperation regarding the new F-35Ir. During his visit, General Pleus toured Tel-Nof AFB and visited the IAF Test Squadron and Aerial Maintenance Unit. He performed a simulator sortie in the IAF Fighter Simulator Squadron in Hatzor AFB and toured Nevatim AFB and the “Golden Eagle” Squadron that operates the “Adir” (F-35I).
General Pleus is responsible for integrating activities across air staff directorates, the Office of the Secretary of Defense, partners, Department of the Navy, U.S. Marine Corps, major commands and the Joint Program Office to ensure connectivity of information and decisions across the F-35 enterprise.
Similarly to the IAF, the USAF is also currently in the process of integrating the F-35. The fifth-generation stealth fighter wields new capabilities and requires a comprehensive change in aircraft, squadron and Force-wide operation concepts. In the passing August, the USAF declared the F-35A jet “combat ready”, when it announced IOC (initial operational capability). The IAF expects to declare F-35I IOC in December 2017.
“For the first time, we face a scenario in which the IAF and USAF are integrating an aircraft simultaneously”, shared Maj. Roei from the IAF International Affairs Branch. “We integrated the F-15 and F-16 jets years after them, so when we faced difficulties, they usually had the answer. Here, we face the challenges of integration side by side, so the communication between us is fundamental”.
Strengthening the Bond
This is General Pleus’ second visit to the Israeli Air Force, after attending the “Adir” F-35I landing ceremony in December. This time, he was invited to Israel as a guest of Brig. Gen. Tal Kelman, the Chief of Air Staff and met with the other heads of IAF Divisions and Directorates in order to discuss the integration process and its various aspects, such as intelligence, operations and training.
“The communication with the USAF F-35 Integration Office is of great importance”, explained Maj. Roei. “Brig. Gen. Pleus has a central role and deals with a wide spectrum of aspects regarding the integration of the aircraft. The goal of the visit was to create the necessary connection in order to strengthen and guarantee the channels the information goes through”.