F-35 Joint Strike Fighter Not Ready for Combat Until at Least 2019, GAO Says

March 12, 2013

The $397 billion F-35 Joint Strike Fighter will not be ready to go into operation until at least 2019, 23 years after the Pentagon signed a contract in 1996 with Lockheed Martin to produce just fewer than 2,500 of the aircraft for the Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps, according to a new report.

Initial operational test and evaluation -- or IOT&E -- testing of the F-35, the most expensive Defense Department procurement in history, is scheduled to begin in 2017 and run through 2019, the Government Accountability Office said. These tests will “evaluate the combat effectiveness and suitability of the aircraft in an operationally realistic environment,” GAO said.

These tests will determine if the plane can achieve “key performance parameters [that] are critical to the F-35 meeting the warfighter’s operational requirements. They include measures such as range, weapons carriage, mission reliability and sortie rates. These parameters also cannot be fully verified until the end of IOT&E in 2019,” GAO said.

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