The F-35 joint program office announced today the program has officially entered the initial operational test and evaluation phase.
The program expects the testing phase to run through the end of next summer.
“The start of formal operational testing is a milestone more than 18 years in the making,” Program Executive Officer Adm. Mat Winter said in a Dec. 6 press release. “It is the culmination of years of hard work and dedication from the joint government and industry team who completed the most comprehensive, rigorous and the safest developmental flight test program in aviation history.”
The start of IOT&E comes about 16 months later than the program predicted it would in a 2012 schedule. The program did get approval from the director of operational test and evaluation to begin some pre-IOT&E events before it officially met all of the required testing conditions. Earlier this year, the Joint Strike Fighter Operational Test Team conducted cold-weather testing, weapons demonstrations, suitability deployments and some lower threat missions testing.
Once IOT&E is finished, the program expects milestone C and full-rate production decisions will follow soon after, likely in late 2019 or early 2020.