All indications from the pilots and commanders at Red Flag are that the F-35A performed far better than recent reports from the Director of Operational Test and Evaluation seemed to indicate.
The now-departed Director of Operational Test and Evaluation, Michael Gilmore, said the Lockheed Martin-built aircraft is “not effective and not suitable across the required mission areas and against currently fielded threats” and detailed 64 pages of problems, many of them with to do with the aircraft’s software.
The view from Red Flag was quite different. The 13 F-35As maintained a 90 percent mission capable rate during the three-week exercise, respectable for any combat aircraft. Planes did have problems, including one that lost a generator, but every issue was dealt with inside of 24 hours, according to two Air Force officers talking to reporters today at the end of the exercises.
“We flew these jets hard. We flew a ton of missions in Red Flag during those four weeks. I would strongly disagree (with the proposition) that the jets are not ready. We are ready to take these jets on the road whenever we’re asked to,” Lt. Col. George Watkins, 34th Fighter Squadron commander, told us.