The F-35 Lightning II program has reached a major program milestone with the start of formal Initial Operational Test and Evaluation (IOT&E) to measure the effectiveness, suitability, lethality, survivability and overall mission capability of the F-35 weapons system.
The Joint Strike Fighter Operational Test Team (JOTT), under the oversight of the independent Director of Operational Test and Evaluation (DOT&E), will execute formal IOT&E with international partner participation. The JOTT began some Pre-IOT&E events such as cold weather operations, weapons demonstrations, suitability deployments, and lower threat missions earlier in 2018. Formal IOT&E will test the system and identify areas for improvement in the most stressing operationally representative environments, and is expected to be complete late summer of 2019. DOT&E will analyze the data from the testing and prepare a report for Congress and the Secretary of Defense evaluating the results and the adequacy of the test. The F-35 enterprise will work together to understand and holistically address any findings. Following the evaluation and the DOT&E report provided to Congress, the U.S. Government will have data to inform its “Milestone C” decision, leading to formal entry into full rate production.
“The start of formal operational testing is a milestone more than 18 years in the making,” said Vice Adm. Mat Winter, F-35 Program Executive Officer. “It is the culmination of years of hard work and dedication from the joint government and industry team who completed the most comprehensive, rigorous and the safest developmental flight test program in aviation history. While aircraft are in operational test, the F-35 Joint Program Office will continue to support the delivery of phased capability improvements and modernization of the air system.”