Lockheed Martin Corp.’s F-35 has deployed from the Gulf of Aden to Alaska and is coveted by would-be buyers led by the United Arab Emirates. But the simulated combat testing needed to tell how well it would fare against Russian, Chinese or Iranian air defenses may be delayed yet again.
The intensive combat simulation testing of the fighter jet, which was supposed to occur in 2017 and most recently was set for this December, is almost certain to slip into next year because of difficulties finishing technical preparations, according to the Pentagon’s weapons buyer and testing office.
Resolution of “defects” in the simulation set-up “will likely drive” the tests into next year, Jessica Maxwell, a spokeswoman for Ellen Lord, the Defense Department’s undersecretary for acquisition, said in an email. It’s the latest twist in a 19-year-long tale of setbacks spawned by the decision to build the Pentagon’s most expensive weapons program ever even as it’s still being developed.
The one-month, 64-sortie “Joint Simulation Environment” exercise will use a full replica of the F-35 cockpit rigged with its combat sensors and electronics. A pilot at the Patuxent River Naval Air Station in Maryland, will operate in a fully functioning simulator with a 360-degree view that depicts classified air and ground threats and incorporates allied aircraft as well.
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