The first Italian-built F-35B was delivered to the Italian navy on January 25. Development issues with the STOVL version of the Lightning II were particularly highlighted in the latest DOT&E report.

F-35 Problems Remain, Testers Say

by Chris Pocock, AIN Online

The annual report from the Pentagon’s Director of Operational Test and Evaluation (DOT&E) again contains serious criticism of the F-35 program. Unresolved problems in the development, plus availability and reliability issues, are all of concern. “The operational suitability of the F-35 fleet remains at a level below service expectations and is dependent on work-arounds that would not be acceptable in combat situations,” the report said.

There are “many open deficiencies” in the definitive Block 3F software, the report said. As DOT&E chief Gen. Bob Behler notes by way of introduction, the F-35’s combat effectiveness relies on software mission data files (MDFs) to identify and correlate threat versus friendly radar signals. But the Pentagon’s reprogramming laboratory that creates the MDFs “continues to operate with cumbersome software tools and outdated or incomplete hardware.” The report does note that this is the fault of the F-35 Joint Program Office (JPO), not Lockheed Martin.

Testing of the F-35’s weapons has revealed various deficiencies in both air-to-air and air-to-ground missions, the report alleged. These include an aiming bias on the 25 mm internal gun on the F-35A. The podded guns fitted to the F-35B and F-35C versions are more accurate. However, a detailed table of weapons testing included in the report did reveal successful firings of AMRAAM, AIM-9X, and the UK’s ASRAAM air-to-air missiles, and successful dropping of GBU-12/31/39, SDB and the UK’s Paveway IV air-ground weapons, and the JSOW missile.

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