F-35 Wins Pentagon Approval for Combat Testingby Anthony Capaccio, Bloomberg
Pentagon weapons buyer Ellen Lord has approved plans to begin full combat testing of Lockheed Martin Corp.’s F-35, a major step toward full production of the fighter jet planned for next year.
Lord, the under secretary for acquisition, “certified readiness to enter operational testing after concurring” with the F-35 program manager’s recommendation to start in mid-November, her spokesman, Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Mike Andrews, said in a statement to Bloomberg News.
More than 320 F-35s are already operating from 15 bases worldwide, although the Pentagon and Lockheed continue to wrestle with resolving more than 900 deficiencies, including flaws in the plane’s complex software. That’s a result of the Defense Department’s strategy to start producing the plane while it’s still under development, a strategy that a chief Pentagon weapons buyer once called “acquisition malpractice.”
By law, the F-35 must undergo full combat testing to demonstrate that it’s “operationally effective and suitable” against the most sophisticated aviation and air defense threats before the Pentagon can buy the bulk of the planned 2,456 U.S. aircraft.