F-35 Initial Operational Capability was granted with 67 exceptions, say the National Audit Office in a report.
As of February 2020, the project team had cleared 47 of the exceptions, although Air Command is clearing them more slowly than planned, say the NAO in their report titled ‘Defence capabilities – delivering what was promised’.
The Ministry of Defence is buying 48 F-35B Lightning II aircraft. This is the first tranche of the 138 Lightning II aircraft the UK has committed to purchase over the life of the programme.
The Department will operate F-35s from the carriers and the Royal Air Force base at Marham. IOC (Land) was declared on the 31st of December 2018 with 67 exceptions against the intended milestone including: no availability of training simulators, issues with the global support solution and immature infrastructure delivery.
What is an exception?
The National Audit Office say that the Ministry of Defence declares key project milestones as achieved, without the intended capability always being delivered at that point. MoD guidance permits the declaration of a milestone “even if performance does not meet acceptance criteria, or if testing to confirm criteria have been met is incomplete”. The Department allows exceptions for a variety of reasons, “but the most frequently used in our case studies was that progress was good enough, despite criteria not being met”, they added.
“In some cases, this affected the Department’s ability to use the capability in the way intended. For example, in the case of the F-35 fighter jet (which accounted for two-thirds of exceptions in our case studies), delays to the provision of synthetic training facilities affected the availability of trained pilots and maintainers. Exceptions should be granted on the basis that there is a time bound plan for their resolution, but this was not the case in most of our sampled case studies.”
The report adds:
“The Department currently expects to deliver the promised F-35 Full Operating Capability requirements by 2023.”