(Bloomberg) — 
The Pentagon says it has started a year-long phase of combat testing for Lockheed Martin’s F-35 jet after a 15-month delay caused by an extension in flight testing, software glitches and delays, and quality issues.
  • Completion of tests planned for late next summer would be a major step toward full production of the fighter jet
    • “Start of formal operational testing is a milestone more than 18 years in the making,” Vice Adm. Mat Winter, F-35 Program executive officer, says in an email statement
  • By law, F-35 must undergo full combat testing to demonstrate that it’s “operationally effective and suitable” against the most sophisticated aviation and air defense threats before Pentagon can buy the bulk of a planned 2,456 aircraft
  • NOTE: More than 320 F-35s are already operating from 15 bases worldwide as Pentagon and Lockheed continue to wrestle with resolving more than 900 deficiencies, including flaws in the plane’s complex software
    • Successful test would result in first full-rate production contract of as many as 168 jets, up from 141 in a just-completed award
  • Earlier: Lockheed’s F-35 Wins Pentagon Approval for Full Combat Testing