As the F-35 gets ready to deploy its first squadron overseas next year, the air frame still has unresolved problems and maintenance and technical concerns, a dense report released this year by the Pentagon’s director of Operational Test and Evaluation finds.
The report is the focus of a new post by the Project on Government Oversight, an independent watchdog group that has long been critical of the F-35 Program.
In addition to deficiencies and performance issues with the software for the various F-35 variants, the report found that F-35 aircraft spent 21 percent more time down for maintenance than was planned and waited for supply parts for 51 percent longer than they were supposed to. Program delays plague software development, equipment delivery and developmental testing.
POGO staff summarize the findings thus:
“The makes clear just how far the F-35 program still has to go in the development process. Some of the technical challenges facing the program will take years to correct, and as a result, the F-35’s operationally demonstrated suitability for combat will not be known until 2022 at the earliest.”
The report also prompted a statement from the Joint Strike Fighter Program Officer defending the aircraft.
“Although the DOT&E report is factually accurate, it does not fully address program efforts to resolve known technical challenges and schedule risks … Our government and industry team has a proven track record of overcoming technical challenges discovered during developmental and operational testing and fleet operations, and delivering on program commitments,” the statement reads, in part. “The F-35C has now ‘caught the wire’ more than 200 times at sea, the engine rub fix is incorporated on the production line and delivered engines are being retrofitted, and the F‑35B has performed more than 1,000 vertical landings safely.”