Heading into F-35 operational tests, threat of delays loom

WASHINGTON ? The F-35 is set to move into operational testing next month ? a major milestone that precedes the Pentagon?s decision on whether to begin full-rate production of the jet ? but there are already signs that it may not be able to complete testing on time.

Furthermore, the F-35 joint program office is still assessing what impact a recent fleet-wide inspection of the F-35 enterprise for faulty fuel tubes will have on its Nov. 13 start date ? though the JPO remains confident that it can wrap up needed repairs in time for operational tests to begin in November.

The Pentagon is aiming to wrap up initial operational test and evaluation, or IOT&E, on schedule in July 2019 despite a two-month delay in starting the tests, according to a Sept. 14 PowerPoint presentation by F-35 test director Air Force Col. Varun Puri, which Defense News obtained.