The US Air Force 31st Test and Evaluation Squadron have kicked off F-35 Initial Operational Test and Evaluation.
The evaluation is understood to have started with a sortie of aircraft, referred to as a ‘large employment sortie’.
“The sorties consisted of seven F-35s performing both offensive counter air, suppression of enemy air defenses and air attack operations. This marks an important milestone for the F-35 program,” said Lt. Col. Nicholas Ihde, 31st TES commander.
During the IOT&E phase, the 31st TES F-35 pilots will fly more than 30 missions designed to fully evaluate the complete air system as well as identify technical and operational areas for improvement.
The 31st TES has 10 F-35 pilots, 145 maintainer’s and 11 engineers to bring the F-35 programme through this phase. If they discover an issue they will work with the director of operational test and evaluation, Lockheed Martin and the F-35 Joint Program Office to address it before going out to the fleet.
The completion of F-35 IOT&E will help inform full rate production of the aircraft in the future.