The Pentagon's office managing production of the F-35 -- two F-35A fighter wings are pictured during an exercise at Hill Air Force Base in 2020 -- said the aircraft will not be declared ready for full rate production for a few more months. Photo by R. Nial Bradshaw/U.S. Air Force | License Photo
March 18 (UPI) -- The Pentagon is months away from declaring the F-35 ready for full-rate production, according to a defense official in charge of the program.
And even when it's ready for production, it's unlikely jets will immediately begin Lot 15 production.
Kyra Daley, director of strategic communications for the Pentagon's F-35 Joint Program Office, told Air Force Magazine officials expect an estimate on when full-rate production can be declared "in a couple of months."
According to Daley, the program has been hamstrung as it attempts to integrate the F-35 with the Pentagon's Joint Simulation Environment, a wargaming system that determines the right mix of platforms and weapons for a scenario.
The program office is working on a "revised acquisition program" schedule and "will deliver it when complete," joint program office spokeswoman Laura Seal told Bloomberg.
"We expect this to be in the coming months. Our focus is on building an executable plan that addresses previous schedule overruns," Seal said.
The JSE needs to work with data regarding maintenance turn rates and aircraft availability, and those data have been volatile over the last six years, Daley said.
The Pentagon has now created a team specifically dedicated to "evaluating all the necessary steps" to integrating the aircraft with the JSE.
"It's more complicated than originally anticipated," Daley said.
In February, Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., expressed frustration with numerous production delays on the aircraft, of which about 500 have been produced so far.
In October, the DoD delayed plans to move the F-35 program to full-rate production because simulation testing was delayed until 2021.
The simulation testing is the last and most critical stage of combat testing for the jet before production can begin.
The program has cost nearly $1.8 trillion in development over the past two decades.