Nothing We Didn’t Know

An operational utility evaluation of the F-35A strike fighter’s readiness for training determined that the system is still “very immature,” according to Michael Gilmore, the Pentagon’s top tester. The comment came in a 68-page report to the Defense Secretary, senior Pentagon leaders, and the Joint Chiefs of Staff, dated Feb. 15. Gilmore said training could only have “limited utility” right now because there are so many “limitations, workarounds, and flight restrictions” on F-35As at this point. He offered six main suggestions to improve flight training, from getting helmet displays and navigational functions up to par to fixing discrepancies between courseware and flight manuals. He noted that there’s enough capability to sustain flying six aircraft at a low sortie rate, but said the reliability of the aircraft at 2,500 fleet flight hours is “significantly below” program expectations. Gilmore also said the procedures for practicing recovery from flameouts needs to be better laid out. Joe DellaVedova, F-35 joint program office spokesman, told the Daily Report on March 6 that “there are no issues identified” in the report that the Air Force and JPO “didn’t already know about, and are working to resolve.” He said the Air Force determined the F-35 was ready for training operations and the operational and maintenance procedures would “continue to mature as the training tempo accelerates.” (See also Eglin Cleared to Start F-35 Training.)