Despite USAF IOC, F-35 Still Falls Short

F-35 flies in formation with F-16

Coming just a few days after the Air Force declared its F-35A cleared for limited operations, the Pentagon's top tester expressed doubt about the aircraft.

Michael Gilmore, the Director of Operational Test and Evaluation (DOT & E) for the Defense Department said “In fact the program is actually not on a path toward success but instead on a path toward failing to deliver” the aircraft’s full capabilities, “for which the Department is paying almost $400 billion by the scheduled end” of its development in 2018, Michael Gilmore, the Defense Department’s director of operational testing, said in an Aug. 9 memo obtained by Bloomberg News.

Among the problems faced by the F-35 testing program: flight testing has fallen well behind schedule, complex software capabilities are just now being added with bugs and glitches popping up frequently, the internal gun for the F-35A causes yaw problems, integrating the small-diameter-bomb (SDB) and AIM-9X A-A missile puts excessive strain on the aircraft, and other software-related problems, such as processing incoming air and ground radar signals, tracking moving ground targets, and sharing targeting and imagery information.

Despite the aircraft's current problems, Gilmore is not against the idea that the F-35 could be deployed today, stating the F-35 would have to be accompanied by older aircraft to “locate and avoid modern threats, acquire targets and engage formations of enemy fighter aircraft due to outstanding performance deficiencies and limited weapons carriage.” This may be the most damning of all the comments about the F-35 since it's clear that the Pentagon is putting all of their eggs in the F-35 basket. If the F-35 can't work on its own, where does that leave US air power?

Unsurprisingly, Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James, Joe DellaVedova, spokesman for the Defense Department’s F-35 program office, and Mark Johnson, a Lockheed spokesman, all brushed off the DOT & E concerns as part of the development process, and “all of the issues mentioned are well-known” and being resolved.

Read the full article over at Bloomberg News