F-35 OT&E Slipping Away

Operational, test, and evaluation of the full-up F-35 will be a minimum of six months behind schedule, though it most likely will be a year late because of a number of issues still vexing the program, Pentagon operational, test, and evaluation director J. Michael Gilmore told the Senate Armed Services Committee Tuesday. Among the issues he thinks will delay OT&E are software instability, “shortfalls” in electronic warfare and electronic attack capability, missile launch warnings as detected by the Digital Aperture System, unacceptably long times needed to complete aerial refueling—“two to three times as long as other aircraft,” classified mission system problems, “gun problems on all variants,” and the Autonomic Logistics Information System. The Air Force F-35A version was supposed to go through IOT&E in October 2017, but now likely won’t enter the test phase until May of 2018, Gilmore said. He said his office will be thorough and make sure the F-35 can do everything it’s supposed to, and wants it to work. “If the F-35 doesn’t succeed,” Gilmore said, “we’ll be in a pickle.” Program Director Lt. Gen. Christopher Bogdan told the panel he is almost ready to certify that the instability issue is fixed. It will shortly be “behind us,” he said.