The Joint Strike Fighter Operational Test Team (JOTT) recently completed the cold weather environment testing of the F-35 Lightning stealth fighter jet, at the Eielson Air Force Base (AFB), Alaska, as part of its pre-Initial Operational Testing & Evaluation (IOT&E).
The testing was conducted to determine whether all three variants of the F-35 (F-35A, F-35B & F-35C) are suitable and able to operate in the frigid weather of interior Alaska. The F-35 has already completed developmental testing in sub-zero temperatures.
In April 2016, the Secretary of the Air Force announced that Eielson AFB was selected to be the first operational U.S. Air Force (USAF) location outside the contiguous United States to receive the F-35A Lightning II. The selection was made after a lengthy analysis of the installation’s operations, environmental factors and cost.
In preparation for the arrival of the Department of Defense’s newest fifth-generation fighter, the installation has seen growth and changes.
Due to its location, Eielson will be one of the harshest environments in which the aircraft will be stationed. It also makes it an ideal location for testing the F-35 in a cold weather environment for this pre-IOT&E test event.
Additional pre-IOT&E test events will be permitted in coming months, before all necessary test readiness entrance criteria for the formal start of IOT&E are met in the fall of 2018. These additional events include mission scenarios for strike coordination and reconnaissance, aerial reconnaissance and close air support, along with weapons testing.
The F-35 IOT&E, which is scheduled to formally start in the fall of 2018, will inform the warfighter and Congress on the aircraft’s overall effectiveness to conduct designed missions and the suitability of the weapon system.
Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II
Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II is a family of single-seat, single-engine, all-weather, fifth-generation stealth multirole fighter jets designed and developed by Lockheed Martin to perform ground attack and air defense missions.
The fighter combines advanced stealth with fighter speed and agility, advanced mission systems, fully fused sensor information, network-enabled operations and cutting-edge sustainment.
It has three main models: the F-35A conventional takeoff and landing (CTOL) variant, the F-35B short take-off and vertical-landing (STOVL) variant, and the F-35C carrier-based Catapult Assisted Take-Off But Arrested Recovery (CATOBAR) variant.
The three distinct variants will replace the F-16 Fighting Falcon and A/OA-10 Thunderbolt II for the U.S. Air Force (USAF), the F/A-18 Hornet for the U.S. Navy (USN), the F/A-18 and AV-8B Harrier for the U.S. Marine Corps (USMC), and a variety of fighters for 11 other countries.
On 31 July 2015, the USMC declared ready for deployment the first squadron of F-35B fighters after intensive testing. On 2 August 2016, the USAF declared its first squadron of F-35A fighters combat-ready. The Initial Operational Capability (IOC) declaration of Navy fighters are expected in 2019.
Airman 1st Class Isaac Johnson | 354th Fighter Wing