Lockheed Martin CEO Bob Stevens has told financial analysts in the US that the three F-35B STOVL test aircraft based at NAS Patuxent River are not meeting their flight test schedule due to parts failures.
Stevens said the flight test schedule was running 21 flights behind the 95 the company had hoped to have achieved by the end of June due to small parts like hydraulic actuators, valves, power system components and cooling fans failing faster than anticipated, but was quick to emphasise there had been no failures of key propulsion system components such as the lift fan and its drive shaft and that the issues shouldn’t affect the planned first delivery of an F-35B to the US Marine Corp next year. The Fort Worth Star Telegram reported that the F-35B fleet had completed 91 test flights by July 27.
The F-35B flight test issues were raised by company vice president Tom Burbage during his June visit to Australia when he told Australian Aviation that “maintenance and things” were holding up the STOVL flight test program.
By contrast, flight testing of the F-35A test aircraft Edwards AFB and the sole carrier capable F-35C were ahead of schedule, as are overall flight test numbers planned for the year to date.