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F-35 Program Leader: Do We Really Need To Test The F-35 Against The A-10?

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Jonah Bennett Contributor
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The top F-35 program officer Wednesday called the attempt to pit the F-35 against the A-10 in a test “meaningless,” surprising and a waste of taxpayer dollars.

Speaking at the ComDef industry conference, Air Force Lt. Gen. Christopher Bogdan said he was somewhat taken aback at the recent decision for the F-35 to square off against the A-10, National Defense Magazine reports.

Bogdan wondered why evaluators decided to schedule a test for 2018, given that Lockheed Martin, the defense contractor, is so far down the road in development.

“The idea that we are going to go test the F-35 in a close-air support role is a good thing,” Bogdan said. “We want to know how it performs in that environment. But what we really want to know are its deficiencies in doing the missions the services and international partners need, not to see how good it does compared to the A-10.”

The solution is testing the F-35 in a realistic environment, not against the A-10, which according to Bogdan, is too inflexible and slow when close-air support is needed as a rapid response measure.

Since the comparative test doesn’t make much sense, Bogdan figures it’s largely a misuse of taxpayer dollars.

In late August, J. Michael Gilmore, director of the Pentagon’s Operational Test and Evaluation Office, made the initial announcement of the test. This contradicted claims by the Air Force’s top general that same week, who scoffed at the idea of a comparative test of the two aircraft and said, “I don’t know anything about that.”

But after he delivered the remarks, Gen. Mark Welsh quickly stated that he supports the evaluation. (RELATED: The Ultimate Showdown: A-10 Will Get To Face Off Against The F-35)

Development of the F-35 program is still underway, with the end goal of wrapping that phase up in October 2017, but the program still has to work through software bugs, despite shipping out the F-35B to the Marine Corps. All services receiving aircraft also need to train more pilots and work out logistical kinks. Although the F-35B has been declared ready for combat, the aircraft will not deploy to Iwakuni, Japan, until 2016. (RELATED: F-35B Is Now Combat Ready For Marine Corps)

The next stage in the game is to declare the F-35A operational for the Air Force in August 2017. The Navy’s aircraft is set to finish last in 2019, which is when officials are hoping that around 500 F-35s will join the fleet.

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