US Secretary for Defense Leon Panetta has announced the lifting of the F-35B STOVL variant’s probation, citing “tremendous amounts of testing” and “real progress towards fixing some of the known problems” with the aircraft.
Speaking at Naval Air Station Patuxent (Pax) River, Panetta said the F-35B was now “demonstrating the kind of performance and maturity that is in line with the other two variants of the JSF.” He added that, “the STOVL variant has made, I believe and all of us believe, sufficient progress so that as of today, I am lifting the STOVL probation. We’ve got a long way to go with the JSF testing, and it’s obviously not out of the woods yet. But I am confident that if we continue to do the hard work necessary … that both the carrier and the STOVL variant are going to be ready for operations and are going to be ready for doing the work that they have to do, which is to help protect this country.”
Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates placed the F-35B on probation in early 2011 in response to ongoing issues with the complex systems required to facilitate the short takeoff and vertical landing capabilities.
“I want to thank General Amos and Vice Admiral Venlet for their stalwart leadership in navigating the STOVL program through the year long probation period,” Larry Lawson, general manager of Lockheed Martin’s F-35 program, said. “We are committed to the Marine Corps vision and the F-35B role that will revolutionise our expeditionary Marine Air-Ground combat power in current and future threat environments.”