While the first fighter pilot of the 388th Fighter Wing has just passed the 1,000-hour mark on the F-35A, Pentagon officials have delayed approval for full production of the Lockheed Martin fighter. Since 2017, a simulation test has spoiled the party.
1,000 flight hours on F-35A
On October 22 that fighter pilots of the 388th Fighter Wing with their F-35A Lightning IIs flew a four-on-six tactical intercept mission over the Utah Test and Training Range. The two-hour sortie used sensors and stealth to engage the enemy. The sortie lasted approximately two hours. And it was during this flight that Lieutenant Colonel Jared "Vic" Santos became the first U.S. Air Force F-35 pilot to surpass the 1,000-hour mark on the F-35A.
Still at a low production rate
This comes at a time when Pentagon officials have delayed approval for full production of the F-35. The reason for the delay is based on combat simulation tests. These tests are necessary before this key program decision is made. In their absence, production of the F-35 will continue at a low rate.
Joint Simulation Environment
This combat test, entitled "Joint Simulation Environment", will use a complete replica of an F-35 cockpit, equipped with its combat sensors and electronics. A pilot from the Patuxent River Naval Air Station in Patuxent River, Maryland, will operate in a fully functional simulator with a 360-degree view that represents classified air and land threats and also incorporates allied aircraft. The simulation exercise was scheduled to be ready three years ago, in 2017, but the software required to run it has been much more difficult to develop than expected. So much so that the postponement of these tests to 2021 is related to difficulties in completing the technical preparations.
As of October 1, more than 570 F-35s have been delivered to the United States and other buyers.