United States

Lockheed Martin F-35 strike fighter still can not pass tests

13:26, 14 July 2021
Lockheed Martin F-35 strike fighter still can not pass tests Photo: U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Donald R. Allen

The Lockheed Martin F-35 strike fighter still can not be tested for operational use on the ground of critical deficiencies with the aircraft, which have not been resolved yet, the US Government Accountability Office (GAO) said.

"The F-35 program has not completed operational testing on the aircraft to ensure warfighters get the capabilities they require, primarily due to increasing delays with the aircraft simulator," the report says.

In August 2020, GAO determined that the F-35 simulator did not fully represent F-35 capabilities and could not be used for further testing until fixed. The simulator was going to be used to replicate complex test scenarios that could not be accomplished in real-world environment testing.

The Department of Defense (DoD) still needs to ensure critical manufacturing processes are mature, address supply chain issues that strain production and sustainment, and take steps on reliability and maintainability goals.

"As the program progresses toward completing operational testing of the aircraft's baseline capabilities, it still faces risks," the regulator said.

The F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter development was launched in 2001 as the US DoD's most expensive weapon system program. Currently, elaboration is more than eight years delayed and $165 billion over original cost expectations. 

The F-35 fighter was conceived as a relatively affordable fifth-generation aircraft, but remains as the world's most expensive weapons platform. Flying the F-35 costs $36,000 per hour, and it has a projected lifetime cost of $1.7 trillion.