Flying part of F-35 OUE to be completed next week at Eglin AFB

The USAF’s 33rd Fighter Wing expects to complete the flying portion of the F-35A’s operational utility evaluation (OUE) early next week. Afterwards, the two operational evaluators from the Pentagon’s Joint Operational Test Team who are undergoing training in the stealthy 5th generation fighter as part of the OUE will start writing up their report. If Air Education and Training Command (AETC) chief General Edward Rice is satisfied that the F-35 and the training pipeline at the 33rd FW is robust enough, he will give his formal assent for training to start at Eglin–probably early in the new year.

Read the full story here

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USAF Photo by Maj Karen Roganov

Very soon operational testers at Nellis AFB, Nevada, will start receiving their first F-35s… So will the first US Marine Corps operational squadron at MCAS Yuma, Arizona. That starts the long road to getting the F-35 operational… which for the USAF is probably going to be around 2018-ish, but the service hasn’t said exactly when the F-35 will be formally declared operational.

But then-Lt Gen Herbert “Hawk” Carlisle–currently the four-star PACAF commander–told Congress a while back that while the USAF won’t accept anything less than a full-up Block 3 configuration for its F-35 initial operational capability (IOC) declaration, the service could use earlier configuration jets operationally regardless. That’s not without precedent, he told me later during an interview at the Pentagon–the USAF deployed the F-15E to Desert Storm before it was technically IOC.

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USAF Photo by Maj Karen Roganov

In other news, the Air Force Association’s Air Force Magazine talked to Lockheed Martin’s Steve O’Bryan about the F-35. You can read that here… His claims about the F-35′s stealth coatings being more maintainable than the F-22′s seems to be proving correct based on the experiences of maintainers at Eglin. Read that story here.

Meanwhile, developmental testing continues at Edwards AFB, California, and NAS Patuxent River, Maryland. The aircraft’s software and helmet-mounted display continue to be the two biggest challenges. 

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