The UK has achieved Initial Operating Capability (from land) of the F-35 Lightning fleet. This means that in theory, the fleet can be used in combat.
IOC is the state achieved when a capability is available in its minimum usefully deployable form.
A tweet from Northrop Grumman seems to have beaten any official announcement, that tweet is displayed below. However, IOC (Land) was expected at this time anyway.
Recently, the 17th F-35B for the UK was delivered. Numbers right now are exactly where they’re expected to be and inline with the 2015 Strategic Defence and Security Review.
2 F-35B in LRIP run 3, 1 F-35B in LRIP run 4, 1 F-35B in LRIP run 7, 4 F-35B in LRIP run 8, 6 F-35B in LRIP run 9, 3 F-35B in LRIP run 10, 2 F-35B in LRIP run 11, 2 F-35B in LRIP run 12, 6 F-35B in LRIP run 13, 8 F-35B in LRIP run 14 and 7 F-35B in LRIP run 15. This brings us to 42 in 2023. The next run brings us to the total of the first batch of aircraft, 48.
It is hoped that 138 F-35 aircraft will have been delivered by the 2030s. Around 2023, the Ministry of Defence have indicated that the UK will have 42 F-35 aircraft with 24 available as ‘front-line fighters’ and the remaining 18 will be used for training (at least 4-5 on the OCU), be in reserve or in maintenance.
#NorthropGrumman would like to congratulate the @RoyalAirForce on achieving Initial Operating Capability (IOC) of the F35- Lightning. We’re proud of the significant contribution we made to this #F35Programme. https://t.co/U5SL9ikevh pic.twitter.com/WpjcHAHqui
— Northrop Grumman (@northropgrumman) January 10, 2019
The Lightning Operational Conversion Unit, No. 207 Sqn, will stand up at RAF Marham on July the 1st, 2019, followed by a second operational unit, 809 Naval Air Squadron (NAS), in 2023.
The last of the initial batch of 48 Lightnings is expected for delivery in January 2025, by which time a schedule for the remaining 90 aircraft, and the formation of further squadrons, will likely be in place.
F-35B is expected to reach IOC (Maritime) in 2020.