Analyst says F-35's testing is 'well ahead of the plan'

The Pentagon is building three variants of the fighter jet for the Air Force, Navy, Marines and a list of allied militaries. It is the largest U.S. weapons program ever.

“In November 79 flight tests were conducted rather than the 64 planned, and 476 specific test points were conducted versus the 440 planned," wrote Thompson, also a consultant who does work for F-35 prime contractor Lockheed Martin. "For the full year through November, the flight-test program is 11 percent ahead of plan, having conducted 902 actual tests compared with 813 planned. The year-to-date results on individual test points was even better, with results 15 percent ahead of plan.

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“All three variants of the plane are surpassing expectations for both number of flight tests and number of test points,” Thompson wrote.

Thompson also shines a light on internal Pentagon tensions about an Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD) estimate that found the cost of operating the 2,443 F-35s the three U.S. services plan to purchase. That OSD office’s estimate came to $1.07 trillion (then-year dollars).

“Air Force and Navy sources say the services have begun challenging the assumptions and methods used by Pentagon estimators in calculating the cost of supporting the F-35 across a fifty-year operational lifetime,” Thompson wrote. “While the estimate suggests an annual sustainment price-tag well below what the aircraft F-35 will replace are already costing the military, the services contend the F-35 projection greatly exaggerates the actual costs of keeping 2,443 Joint Strike Fighters in a high state of readiness.”