There’s going to be a six-month delay in the start of F-35 Initial Operational Test and Evaluation, program and Pentagon leaders said Tuesday. Pentagon acquisition chief Frank Kendall acknowledged that although “the target was the middle of 2017” to start IOT&E, “it’s clear we’re not going to make that.” Now it will start around January 2018. The problem, program director Lt. Gen. Christopher Bogdan explained, is not with the software, since he expects the 3F software to be fully vetted and stable by then, but having enough early-production F-35s reconfigured and modified into the full-up configuration for use in IOT&E. Bogdan has previously noted that parts are a problem, since they’re being made for multiple configurations of the fleet of over 120 aircraft, leading to shortages of any one type. The aircraft must be in production–representative configuration, meaning the most up-to-date version, for IOT&E to be valid. He admitted, though, that the 3F software is four months behind because code-writers were focused on debugging the 3i software before tackling 3F and that ate up schedule margin.
The U.S. supports “a stronger and more capable” European defense, Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III said during an Oct. 22 press conference in Brussels—but that defense should not duplicate the functions and capabilities of the NATO alliance.