Pentagon's F-35 office eyes possible change in testing approach

Wed Oct 30, 2013 7:54pm EDT
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By Andrea Shalal-Esa

WASHINGTON Oct 30 (Reuters) - The Pentagon on Wednesday said it is examining the possibility of saving time and money by more closely integrating developmental and operational testing of the new F-35 radar-evading fighter jet built by Lockheed Martin Corp.

Kyra Hawn, spokeswoman for the $392 billion F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program, said discussions were under way with the Pentagon's "testing community" but no decisions had been made.

"It's trying to do what makes sense and is efficient, without up-ending the intent of having these separate and distinct review processes," Hawn said.

Pentagon officials have said they hope to protect the F-35, the military's most expensive new weapons program, but mounting budget pressures have forced officials to look for efficiencies and cost savings across the board.

Michael Gilmore, the Pentagon's director of operational testing and evaluation, has been critical of past efforts to reduce F-35 developmental testing, arguing that it could lead to significant discoveries during operational testing later.

Gilmore had also warned against starting pilot training before more developmental testing had been completed, but the services decided to press ahead with training programs.

But Gilmore's spokeswoman Jenn Elzea said he would consider a more integrated testing approach, if structured properly.

"The Director of Operational Test & Evaluation is always open to considering the use of integrated testing, which uses developmental tests conducted under appropriate conditions to collect data for use in our operational evaluations," she said.   Continued...