F-35 Enters Initial Operational Test & Evaluation Phase 16 Months Late
(Source: Defense-Aerospace.com; posted Dec 10, 2018)
PARIS --- The F-35 Joint Program Office officially kicked off its Initial Operational Test & Evaluation (IOT&E) phase on Dec. 6, 16 months late compared to the schedule announced two years ago and 5 months late compared to the date announced in Dec. 2017.

IOT&E was due to begin in August 2017, and was then successively re-scheduled to mid-September and then mid-November as the program had not completed the required upgrades and repairs for the Block 3F aircraft.

It also is not clear how long the IOT&E phase will last.

JPO’s Dec 6 statement says it will be completed in “late summer 2019,” which assumes a duration of nine or ten months, but as late as January 2018 it was due to last 13 months. No explanation has been provided as to why it is being cut short by 4-months.

The IOT&E phase will be carried out with 23 Block 3F aircraft of different versions, including:
-- 6 US Air Force F-35A Conventional Take-Off and Landing (CTOL) variants;
-- 2 Royal Netherlands Air Force F-35A CTOL aircraft;
-- 6 U.S. Marine Corps F-35B Short Take-Off Vertical Landing (STOVL) aircraft;
-- 3 Royal Air Force F-35B STOVL aircraft;
-- 6 US Navy F-35C Carrier Variants (CV)

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F-35 Program Starts Formal Operational Testing
(Source: F-35 Joint Program Office; issued Dec 06, 2018)
The F-35 Lightning II program reached another major program milestone with the official start of formal F-35 Initial Operational Test and Evaluation (IOT&E) this week.

Starting this week and continuing through late summer 2019 all three F-35 Air System variants (A/B/C) will be field tested, under realistic combat conditions, for the purposes of determining the weapons systems’ operational effectiveness and operational suitability for combat.

IOT&E is designed to fully evaluate the complete air system as well as identify technical and operational areas for improvement. The independent Director of Operational Test and Evaluation (DOT&E) and Joint Strike Fighter Operational Test Team (JOTT) will execute IOT&E with our U.S. Services, United Kingdom, Dutch and Australian partners participating. All test events will be conducted at U.S. Military testing ranges and installations.

Following the evaluation, the Department will have the required data to share with our Partners and to inform our “Milestone C” acquisition decision, leading to formal entry into full rate production at the end of 2019.

“The start of formal operational testing is a significant milestone for our entire F-35 Enterprise,” said Vice Adm. Mat Winter, F-35 Program Executive Officer. “It is the culmination of years of technical, programmatic and operational work and dedication from our joint government and industry team. I am extremely proud of our team’s commitment to testing excellence and dedication to providing our warfighter affordable, effective capabilities for mission success.”

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Lockheed Martin Media Statement
(Source: Lockheed Martin; issued Dec 07, 2018)
The approval to formally begin Initial Operational Test & Evaluation 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.

The Department of Defense serves as the lead for the formal F-35 Initial Operational Test and Evaluation, and we look forward to providing our full support.

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