The F-35 A recently reached and surpassed its sortie goal (Inside the Air force – subscription required):
Col. Andrew Toth, commander of the 33rd Fighter Wing at Eglin AFB, told ITAF that last week, the wing conducted a successful "surge" in an attempt to carry out as many F-35A flights as it would need to launch during the OUE. Toth said the evaluation requires at least eight flights per week to complete the analysis in its scheduled 65-day window. Between May 21 and May 24, his command scheduled 12 CTOL flights with the intention of getting eight off the ground, and in the end, 11 of the 12 went off as planned, well above the required rate. The one remaining flight was aborted on the ground on May 21.
"Last week was a really big week for us in the fact that we conducted what we call our surge week in preparation for our operational utility evaluation, which will hopefully come up here later in the summer," he said. "With that, we were attempting to get eight of 12 F-35A sorties airborne and in fact we got 11 of 12, so we exceeded our goal in the F-35A."
Toth added in an email provided by Eglin AFB spokeswoman Maj. Karen Roganov that on two of those days, the wing conducted what it calls a "2-turn-2," meaning that two F-35As flew in the morning, went through necessary maintenance and then flew again later in the day. Being able to turn aircraft around and have them ready to fly again in that short time is a sign of aircraft maturity and maintainer experience, program personnel said.
The goal was 8. The squadron was able to turn 11 of 12, easily surpassing the goal.
Many critics were skeptical the F-35A could turn that many sorties, mostly because of the assumed maintenance problems that would keep them from such performance. But it appears the maintenance was minimal in the case of this test:
Asked what aspects of the F-35A have required frequent maintenance, Burkhart said program personnel have not had to deal with any in-depth problems. Instead, he mentioned "normal" procedures like changing tires, relieving wear on aircraft brakes and touching up the low-observable materials on the fighter jet's wings as the simple types of repairs needed to keep the wing's sortie-generation rate high.
Good news as the F-35 continues to develop and prove itself in testing.