F-35 operational suitability short of expectations, says DoD official

14 November 2019 (Last Updated November 14th, 2019 14:34)

The F-35 Lightning II stealth fighter aircraft has come under scrutiny as a Pentagon official stated that the F-35 fleet is not meeting combat readiness targets.

F-35 operational suitability short of expectations, says DoD official
An F-35A Lightning II flies over Hill Air Force Base, Utah, 19 November, 2018. Credit: U.S. Air Force photo by Cynthia Griggs.

The F-35 Lightning II stealth fighter aircraft has come under scrutiny as a Pentagon official stated that the F-35 fleet is not meeting combat readiness targets.

Appearing before two House Armed Services Committee panels, the director of operational test and evaluation (DOT&E) Robert Behler submitted that the three F-35 variants are not meeting either ‘reliability or maintainability metrics’.

Behler said: “The operational suitability of the F-35 fleet remains at a level below service expectations.

“The results show that neither the F-35B nor F-35C currently is on track to meet ORD reliability or maintainability requirements when they attain flight-hour maturity. In short, for all variants, aircraft are breaking more often than planned and taking longer to fix.”

Regarding the F-35A, the conventional takeoff and landing (CTOL) variant built by Lockheed Martin for the US Air Force, Behler said that the aircraft has not been ‘able to meet any of the ORD’s full reliability or maintainability requirements for mature aircraft’.

He revealed that the JSF Operational Test Team (JOTT) completed 91% of the open-air test missions and weapons events.

The Tactical Air and Land Forces and Readiness Subcommittees are reviewing the status of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter programme.

The Pentagon is also working to address issues with the F-35 aircraft’s automated logistics system (ALIS).

In his testimony, Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment Ellen Lord remarked: “The department recognises that ALIS, as presently constituted, is not delivering the capabilities the warfighter needs.

“To correct this, the department has a plan to stabilise and add critical capabilities to the current version of ALIS and we are starting to see progress from these efforts.”

Last month, the US Department of Defense finalised a $34bn deal with Lockheed Martin for the delivery of 478 F-35s. The contract was the largest in the F-35 programme’s history.