JPO Public Response Statement: DOT&E 2016 Annual Report on the F-35
The independent program review from the OSD Director of Operational Test and Evaluation (DOT&E) is an annual occurrence, and the process was executed with unfettered access to information and with the full cooperation of the F-35 Joint Program Office (JPO). The latest DOT&E report contained no surprises; all of the issues are well-known to the JPO, the U.S. services, our international partners, and our industry team.
The F-35 flight test program, as well as the F-35 fleet users, made significant progress in maturing and proving the capability of the aircraft during 2016. For example, the program:
- In May, conducted Hardened Air Shelter (HAS) acoustic measurements during a deployment of two Royal Netherlands Air Force F-35As to Leeuwarden Air Base. This cleared the F-35A for safe operations inside a HAS.
- In June, as a lead-up to U.S. Air Force Initial Operational Capability (IOC) declaration, the unit at Hill Air Force Base deployed 7 F-35As to Mountain Home AFB for a two-week exercise. The unit planned on flying 88 sorties and they successfully flew 88 sorties. They achieved 94 percent on direct hits for the weapons they expended. They did multiple air-to-air and air-to-ground engagements with threats and the F-35 proved to be extremely survivable in both environments.
- In June, the U.S. Air Force, Marine Corps, and the United Kingdom deployed 3 F-35Bs and 2 F-35As to England.
- In July, 6 U.S. Marine Corps F-35Bs participated in Red Flag, a large scale military exercise. The F‑35Bs dominated the air space.
- In August, the U.S. Air Force declared Initial Operational Capability (IOC) for their F-35As within days of their earliest projection.
- In August, a Weapon Delivery Accuracy (WDA) surge was completed at Edwards Air Force base. The effort included 12 WDAs and 13 weapon separations in 31 days across multiple test ranges, outpacing a historical execution rate of roughly 1 WDA every 5 weeks.
- In September, an F-35B from Marine Operational Test and Evaluation Squadron 1 (VMX-1) at Edwards AFB participated in Live Fire Test 4 (LFT-4) at White Sands Missile Range (WSMR). During the test, an MQM-107E drone aircraft flying at low level was engaged by an SM-6 missile fired “over the horizon” using Multi-Functional Advanced Data Link (MADL) targeting data provided by the F-35B to the Aegis combat system contained within the USS DESERT SHIP (LLS-1).
- In September, the F-35C completed its third and final sea trials aboard the USS George Washington, clearing the F‑35C for carrier operations with external stores. The government and Lockheed Martin Integrated Test Force (ITF) based out of Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Maryland accumulated 41 flights and 258 test points over 19 days. In parallel to the initial portions of the developmental testing, the U.S. Navy Lightning II training squadron, VFA-101, brought 4 aircraft for the first F-35C fleet carrier qualification period.
- In November, the F-35B completed its third and final sea trials aboard the USS America, clearing the F-35B for carrier operations with external stores. The NAS Patuxent River ITF accumulated 60 flights and 287 test points over 21 days. After developmental testing completed, the U.S. Marine Corps landed 12 F-35Bs aboard the USS America to conduct a Lightning Carrier Proof of Concept Demonstration. Prior to this event, the most F-35Bs aboard a ship at one time was 6.
- In December, the F-35 JPO completed Chemical and Biological Decontamination testing on the F-35A. The progress on this event cleared the path for testing on a USMC fleet aircraft and certifying the F-35’s ability to survive a chemical or biological contamination.
- The Edwards ITF finished all ground and airborne F-35A flight sciences gunfire testing. This will allow airborne gun WDA testing to proceed, currently scheduled in March 2017.
- In December, the Italian and Israeli Air Forces started operating F-35s in their respective countries.
- Full Block 3F software capability was delivered to flight test in December 2016.
These accomplishments prove the basic design of the F-35 is sound and test results reinforce our confidence in the ultimate performance the U.S. and its partners and allies value greatly.
As a reminder, the F-35 program is still in its developmental phase. This is the time when issues are expected to be discovered and solutions are implemented to maximize the F-35’s capability for the warfighter. While the development program is more than 90 percent complete, we recognize there are known deficiencies that must be corrected and there remains the potential for future findings.
The JPO also recognizes that the completion of the development program is event-driven. The F-35 Joint Program Office and Industry will continue to mature, test and verify F-35 capabilities until the full Block 3F capability is delivered to F-35 customers. Although there is a baseline schedule to complete this work, there is no plan to truncate or end development before the full capability is delivered. The Department has directed the JPO to be ready with appropriate resources to continue development beyond the scheduled end date, if necessary.
Our commitment to overcoming challenges is unwavering. The Joint Program Office will continue to work with the F-35 enterprise to make corrections and improvements as quickly as possible. At the completion of the F‑35 development program, the objective is to deliver full Block 3F capabilities (Mission Systems, Weapons & Flight Envelope) for the Services and International partners and customers. We thank the DOT&E for their assistance as we remain focused on developing, delivering and sustaining the world’s finest, fighter aircraft.