Start Date for F-35 Training at Eglin Under Review

A senior Pentagon official has expressed “serious concerns” about starting F-35 training on the Air Force’s conventional take-off and landing variant at Eglin AFB, Fla., this fall, saying the Joint Strike Fighter program has yet to address some safety-related issues. It could take at least 10 months to meet those requirements, wrote Michael Gilmore, director of Operational Test and Evaluation, in a memo dated Oct. 21 to the Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics. The Project on Government Reform posted the memo on its blog Monday. “Initiation of training in an immature aircraft risks the occurrence of a serious mishap. The consequences of a mishap at Eglin would overwhelm the very modest benefits of beginning flight training this fall,” wrote Gilmore. Vice Adm. David Venlet, JSF program executive officer, and Air Force Lt. Gen. Thomas Owen, commander of the Aeronautical Systems Center at Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio, disagreed with Gilmore’s assessment in a response memo, also posted on the POGO site. They said the risks asserted in the memo “were covered at length during the three-star risk assessment board as part of the airworthiness process.” A third memo, by acting USD(ATL) Frank Kendall, asks the Air Force to resolve the issue.