Fifth Gen Flight Test
U.S. Air Force photo
The F-22 and F-35 are put through the wringer at Edwards AFB, Calif.
The pace of testing the three F-35 strike fighter variants is nearing its peak. The program is the priority flight-test program at Edwards AFB, Calif., and gets first dibs on its tankers, ranges, ground control, and bandwidth. Even so, the pressure is on from military services anxious to field the jets and from Congress to hurry up and prove the multiservice fighters ready for combat.
Testing the F-35, however, is unlike any previous program—even its stealthy, fifth generation F-22 stablemate—because of the program’s size, its international nature, the astonishing array of capabilities jammed into it, and the unprecedented amount of concurrency built into the project.
With only 60 percent of development completed, the Marine Corps expected to declare initial operational capability with the F-35B in July. With a modern fighter, that is unprecedented.
“There’s … a lot of political pressure [and] visibility on it,” said Lt. Col. Andrew Allen, commander of the F-35 Integrated Test Force, in a recent interview.
Will it be everything they want? That’s relative, Allen said.
“To have a service willing to declare IOC well before we’re done developing the aircraft, … I think, speaks positively about the health of the program and where we are right now,” he asserted.