The US Department of Defense's chief operational tester says too many US weapon systems are entering full-rate production without meeting their requirements for reliability, maintainability and availability.

"During the past three years, nine of our 26 beyond low-rate production reports to Congress evaluated the systems as not operationally suitable," says a new report from director, operational test and evaluation Dr Charles McQuarry.

One of the systems judged not operationally suitable is the Lockheed Martin F-22A Raptor, says the report on fiscal year 2006 test activity. Follow-on testing completed last year judged the aircraft operationally effective, but cited deficiencies in air-to-ground weapons integration and defensive avionics capability, low diagnostics accuracy, long repair times and inadequate subsystem reliability.

The US Air Force is playing down the concerns, with Air Combat Command chief Gen Ronald Keys saying the F-22 is "ready to go to war". The first overseas deployment, to Kadena AFB in Japan, begins this month.

Lockheed says the report, based mostly on 2005 data, is out of date. It says substantial progress with reliability and other issues was made last year.

Source: Flight International