Pentagon Tester Warns Against F-35 Block Buy

Navy maintainers stand by a grounded F-35

On Wednesday the Center for Defense Information briefed reporters on some of the highlights of the Director of Operational Test and Evaluation's (DOT&E) report on the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, the most devastating assessment of the F-35 program to date.

The problems listed below are particularly troubling in the context of a likely push to approve a block buy—the authority for a bulk order—long before testing is complete and the problems are resolved.

Approving this block buy would commit taxpayers to a program that is at least six years away from demonstrating the capability and maturity the law requires to ensure we’re receiving a combat-effective aircraft. Further increasing concurrency—the overlap between testing and production—only amplifies risks and costs already experienced by this troubled program.

Director Operational Test & Evaluation Joint Strike Fighter 2015 Annual Report Major Findings

1. The F-35’s final suitability for combat will not be known until 2022 at the earliest.

2. The ultimate measure of the F-35’s reliability and maintainability is the sortie rate.

3. Verification Simulation (VSim) threatens to derail the entire F-35 testing program.

4. The Marine Corps IOC declaration was a sham. The Air Force’s declaration in August will be, too.

5. JSF Program Office’s push for multi-year funding and contract is at least 6 years premature.

Dan Grazier

By: Dan Grazier, Jack Shanahan Military Fellow

Dan Grazier is the Jack Shanahan Military Fellow at the Project On Government Oversight

Photograph of Mandy Smithberger

By: Mandy Smithberger, Director, CDI Straus Military Reform Project

Mandy Smithberger is the Director of the Straus Military Reform Project at the Center for Defense Information at the Project On Government Oversight.