The annual review of the F-35’s Operational Test & Evaluation (OT&E) contains ‘no surprises’ according to the Joint Program Office (JPO) in Washington DC. The review by the Director of Operational Test and Evaluation was released on Monday 1 February but over the past days sparked reports about the F-35 being ‘not ready for unsupported combat’.
Critical reports say the F-35 is still suffering from many deficiencies in the aircraft’s current block-2B software, as well as in the ‘combat ready’ block-3F software that should lead the F-35 to an Inititial Operation Capability (IOC) with the US Air Force later in 2016. The problems would make the aircraft vulnerable to current threats in combat. Remarkable, since the United States Marine Corps (USMC) declared IOC for block-2B configured F-35Bs in July 2015.
In a statement, F-35 Program Executive Officer Chris Bogdan says ‘all of the issues mentioned are well-known to the JPO, the US services, international partners and our industry team.’ Currently, mission systems software and the Autonomic Logistics Information System (ALIS) are regarded as the program’s top technical risks.
Coding for block 3F sofware was completed in June 2015 and the software has been released for flight testing. The software sees continued updates, according to Bogdan. Additional updates are planned throughout 2016 and 2017. High angle of attack test flights have been performed with the 3F software and the flight envelope is being expanded further.
A problem in the Pratt & Whitney F135 engine that caused a fire in an F-35 in June 2014, has been fixed. The solution has been implemented on the production line.
Bogdan points out the F-35 program is still in its developmental phase. “This is the time when issues are expected to be discovered and solutions are implemented to maximize the F-35’s capability While the development program is 80 percent complete, we recognize there are known deficiencies that must be corrected and there remains the potential for future findings.”
When the developmental program is complete in the fall of 2017, all F-35 variants will be able to carry more than 18,000 pound of munitions internally and externally.
Fact and figures
The statement also list some interesting fact and figures. Combined, the 150 operational F-35s and 18 developmental test jets have flown more than 48,000 hours since introduction of the type. In 2015, over 250 pilots including the first two for Australia, Italy and Norway entered training. More than 2,800 maintainers are qualified to service the jet, with a majority graduating from the F-35 Aircraft Training Center at Eglin AFB, Florida.
Furthermore, the naval F-35C variant has now “caught the wire” more than 200 times at sea and the F‑35B has performed over 1,000 vertical landings.
© 2016 Airheadsfly.com editor Elmer van Hest