UPDATED 07/12/18 WITH JPO & LOCKHEED MARTIN STATEMENTS:
The US JSF Program Office (JPO) has officially cleared the Lockheed Martin F-35 to enter into an initial operational test & evaluation (IOT&E) according to a December 5 report in Aviation Week.
The commencement of IOT&E comes 16 months after a previously scheduled start of August 2017 and more recently, an amended planned start in mid-September, although the JPO says it has been conducting a number of “pre IOT&E” events in recent months.
The US Director of Test & Evaluation (DOT&E) office had flagged risk with the IOT&E schedule in a report tabled in January 2017, saying the program wouldn’t be ready until late 2018 because it was lagging in unspecified readiness criteria and due to delays in fielding the latest iteration of the Block 3F software, dubbed ‘30R02’.
A successful completion of IOT&E should clear the way for a ‘Milestone C’ decision on full-rate production in late 2019 for commencement in 2021.
In a December 6 statement, the JPO said; “The F-35 Lightning II program has reached a major program milestone with the start of formal IOT&E to measure the effectiveness, suitability, lethality, survivability and overall mission capability of the F-35 weapons system.
“Formal IOT&E will test the system and identify areas for improvement in the most stressing operationally representative environments, and is expected to be complete late (northern) summer of 2019.”
A Lockheed Martin statement added; “The approval to formally begin IOT&E demonstrates the confidence our customers have in the maturity of the F-35’s design and performance. With more than 340 F-35s operating from 15 bases around the world and delivering exceptional capabilities to the warfighter, we are confident in the F-35 weapon systems’ operational performance, capability and suitability today and for decades to come.”