That’s the verdict of the DoD’s director of Operational Test and Evaluation:
Michael Gilmore wrote in the report that the three versions of the aircraft in 2011 matched or exceeded the program’s restructured plan for tests designed to evaluate flying qualities. The jet in 2010 met most test goals after falling behind in 2009.
Flights designed to accomplish discrete events to demonstrate the aircraft’s war-fighting systems, such as navigation, enemy identification and targeting, fell behind 11 percent for the Air Force and 9 percent for the Marine Corps versions. The Navy’s aircraft carrier version is 32 percent ahead of schedule, the tester says.
“Development, integration and flight testing of the most complex elements of mission systems lie ahead,” Gilmore wrote.
After falling significantly behind schedule in 2009, the various aircraft types have set a blistering pace knocking out test points in 2010-2011, but the mission systems maturity has not kept pace:
The three variants exceeded by 105 the 812 test flights planned for last year. The flight program exceeded by 570 the number of planned test “points,” or planned flying events. It exceeded by 56 the 133 flights devoted to testing mission systems. Gilmore wrote.
“Overall, the program has demonstrated very little missions systems capability thus far in flight test,” Gilmore wrote. “In fact, the program has not delivered some of its intended initial training capability, such as effective and consistent radar performance.”
Gilmore said the 63 aircraft produced under Lockheed’s first four initial production contracts “will require significant numbers of structural modifications and upgrades to attain the planned service life” and full combat capability.
Rein said “the individual technical issues cited in the report are known issues that have engineering solutions either identified, in work or are currently in flight test.”
From my limited access viewpoint, the issues for the aircraft at this stage of maturity seem less technical than political. Which is too bad, because the latter are always more daunting.