Pentagon test director Michael Gilmore reported to Congress that he expects the F-35 to slip months behind on initial operational test and evaluation (IOT&E). The F-35 was originally supposed to begin IOT&E in August of 2017 but now it is forecast to not begin until late 2018 or even 2019. Gilmore stated that early production models of the F-35 are ‘not reliable’ enough to keep up with testing requirements.
Gilmore said the program office “plans to reduce or truncate” developmental testing to “minimize delays and close out” the system development and design phase as quickly as possible, but “even with this risky, schedule-driven approach” he doesn’t see IOT&E starting until late December 2018 or early 2019 “at the soonest.”
He cited 16 areas in which issues either aren’t being addressed or aren’t being addressed fast enough in order to meet the planned schedule. Most have to do with software for the final, 3F version, which Gilmore said have only recently reached “adequate maturity” for testing to begin. The biggest hurdle for the software is for it to all be tested together in an integrated way, he said. – Air Force Magazine
More from Frank Kendall, the Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics:
“We reviewed the status of operational test planning, and there is consensus that that is likely to occur in calendar year 2018 given the realities of the schedule at this time,” said Frank Kendall, the Pentagon’s top acquisition official, during a Tuesday conference call. “The target was the middle of 2017, but it’s clear we’re not going to make that.” – Tampa Bay Defense Alliance
Watch the F-35B
According to the report, the biggest delays are being seen on the Marine Corps’ F-35B short takeoff and vertical landing variant and the Navy’s F-35C carrier-capable version.
It is very concerning when you have government officials publically stating that the Pentagon has been preparing a misleading assessment of the F-35 program.
“If not changed, the existing responses would at best be considered misleading and, at worst, prevarications,” Gilmore wrote in an internal memo. – Bloomberg News
President-elect Trump has been highly critical of the F-35 program and demanded cost reductions from Lockheed Martin CEO Marillyn Hewson.
Featured Image by U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Seaman Natasha R. Chalk, via Wikimedia Commons