The troubled F-35 JSF program has received another scathing report, this time from the Pentagon’s Director, Operational Test & Evaluation (DOT&E).
The report comes hot on the heels of an independent JET report from 2009 which identified several cost and schedule threats to the program, and a late 2009 US Navy report which questioned many of the program’s life cycle and in-service support costs claims.
The DOT&E report raises a number of concerns about the F-35 program, including the fact that the test aircraft to be used in OT&E will not be production representative, that the modelling and simulation used extensively by the program is still at an immature stage and is being performed by unaccredited labs, and that even with an increase in development funding and additional test aircraft, the initial OT&E (IOT&E) may not be finished until 2016, 18 months later than currently planned.
Other concerns outlined in the report include clutch heating problems discovered in the STOVL variant’s hover pit testing, increased approach speeds for the F-35C carrier variant, thermal management issues, and the potential vulnerability of the JSF to battle damage following the deletion of safety check valves and engine bay fire extinguishers to save weight.
Aviation Week’s Ares blog has stressed that it is the DOT&E office’s job to be pessimistic and critical of new programs, and Lockheed Martin has been quick to point out that the report pre-dates several recent development milestones including the first flight of AF-1 in November, the ferry of BF-1 and BF-2 to Patuxent River, and the subsequent engaging of the STOVL lift fan in flight.