I’ve written before that trying to keep track of F-35 milestones is like playing whack-a-mole. It’s not that I’m blaming Lockheed Martin or the joint program office for intentionally obfuscating. It’s just the inherent complexity of a program with milestones spread across three variants and nine development partners. It gets confusing.
But one fixed date that has been very clear — at least since it was last revised about two years ago — is October 2013.
That’s when the 12-year system development and demonstration (SDD) phase is scheduled to officially close. Finishing SDD requires the program to complete the initial operational test and evaluation (IOT&E), the graduation exercise for any new weapons development program.
So it was surprising to read a sudden and almost gratuitous vagueness written into Lockheed’s press release today about an unrelated test event.
Please read the last sentence of the excerpted paragraphs below and tell me: What do you think?
Thefirst Lockheed Martin (NYSE: LMT – News) F-35 Lightning II fighter has finished allplanned testing at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., demonstrating that theaircraft, the support crews, and contractor and military service personnel areready for the dramatically expanded flight testing on the program’s horizon.
“This initial round of testing at Edwards is just the beginning,” saidDoug Pearson, Lockheed Martin vice president of the F-35 Integrated TestForce. “The exceptional performance of the aircraft and those supporting itshows that the team is ready for the fast-paced flight test activitiesupcoming at Edwards and [Naval Air Station] Patuxent River, Md.” By the end of2009, all 19 F-35 test aircraft will be complete and flight test activitieswill intensify, leading to Initial Operational Test & Evaluation in the2013-2014 time frame.