F-35 Program About To Start Pivotal Testingby Kyle Mizokami, Popular Mechanics
The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter is set to enter a round of testing to determine if the jet is indeed ready for action worldwide. The highly anticipated initial operational test and evaluation (IOT&E) tests will start in November 2018 and conclude in July 2019. A bad showing by the F-35 won’t cancel the program, but it would keep the jets expensive, and increasingly complicated, in the short term.
The Pentagon-mandated IOT&E tests will put several F-35s through their paces to determine if the plane is mature enough for mass production. The tests will cover the gamut of the F-35’s capabilities, from operating in cold weather to carrier operations and even simulated combat missions. The testing is designed to assure customers that the jet has overcome the many problems it’s faced over the past decade and is indeed ready for prime time.
The F-35 is currently in low-rate initial production, during which time customers are buying fewer jets and Lockheed Martin is setting up the production line for maximum efficiency. While this is good for cranking out smaller batches of early production jets, limiting production means higher prices. If the F-35 passes IOT&E testing, the aircraft will pass the final hurdle to full rate production.