In this article:
F-35 Lightning II closer to full-rate production thanks to JSE
The Air Force Operational Test and Evaluation Center at Kirtland Air Force Base (AFB), NM, finalized accreditation of the Joint Simulation Environment (JSE), Alert 5 first reported. The last of the 64 missions were completed Sep. 21, allowing the Joint Strike Fighter Operational Test Team (JOTT) to complete F-35 Initial Operational Test and Evaluation.
“The event was truly a multinational success with Australian and United Kingdom members filling key leadership positions,” said WGCDR Leigh Wrighton-Jones, with the Royal Australian Air Force, who serves as the JOTT’s F-35 IOT&E and JSE lead, in a USAF news release. “The imminent F-35 Follow-on Test & Evaluation agreement between the US, UK, and Australia will continue this level of collaboration.”
The JSE simulates a complex system of sensors and platforms within a virtual battlespace. It is a scalable, expandable, high-fidelity government-owned, non-proprietary modeling and simulation environment to conduct testing on fifth-plus generation aircraft and systems accreditable for test as a supplement to open-air testing.
“A balance exists between execution of test and training in a live-fly environment versus what can only be executed in the joint simulation environment,” said Brig. Gen. Trey Rawls, AFOTEC Commander. “The JSE is a collection of connected networked simulators that allows for pilots of different aircraft to train together virtually. It is the only place to do ultra high-fidelity, high-end training as well as complex testing in a secure, realistic environment.”
“JSE provides a venue for realistic test and training,” said Rawls. “The platform was designed for F-35 IOT&E but has demonstrated such a tremendous capability to support future test and training of all future acquisition programs. JSE is expanding to incorporate platforms relevant for high-end adversarial test and training. Expanding the JSE environment compatibility to current and future weapons systems will give warfighters a common synthetic environment to fill training gaps and better prepare future airmen for combat.”
Verification, Validation, and Accreditation of the JSE
The detailed Verification, Validation, and Accreditation (VV&A) of the JSE was a critical precursor to the final F-35 IOT&E missions. Schedule delays continued to plague the program until late 2022 when the JOTT recommended a non-traditional VV&A approach.
“The JOTT not only became part of the VV&A team, providing flight test program discipline and experience, but also provided overall JSE program management,” said Wrighton-Jones. “This allowed for the acceleration of the accreditation process, with the F-35 IOT&E Executive Committee accrediting the JSE on Sept. 1.”
The final F-35 IOT&E test event was supported by several F-35 fleet units, providing them with significant exposure to a high-density advanced threat environment not available at any other training venue.
“JSE delivers the most advanced training facility giving the warfighter access to high-end training, tactics development and validation,” said Rawls. “The DoD and its closest allies will be able to build upon the current technical JSE baseline to fully assess the capabilities of other advanced aircraft against near-peer adversaries in the dense-threat environment expected in a high-end fight.”
F-35 full-rate production
The analysis of the final F-35 IOT&E results in the JSE, in conjunction with open-air testing, will provide a complete assessment of the F-35’s mission effectiveness, in terms of lethality, survivability, and overall mission success. This will inform the decision to authorize F-35 full-rate production.
“The JSE has become its own program of record and given the scope, complexity, and importance of test and training, AFOTEC will shepherd and champion the JSE’s continued development with the Navy, Air Combat Command, and our allies and partners,” said Rawls.
“As the scope of JSE expands and the direction of JSE evolves, AFOTEC must remain engaged to ensure JSE realizes its full potential,” said Rawls. “It is a key component to the Secretary of the Air Force’s operational imperative of readiness to deploy and fight.”
The F-35 is developed, produced, and supported by an international team of government allies and aerospace industry leaders. The F-35 Program is managed by the Pentagon’s F-35 Joint Program Office, the US Air Force, the US Marine Corps and the US Navy are all procuring and operating F-35s.
The program was founded by eight international partners — the US, United Kingdom, Italy, Netherlands, Australia, Norway, Denmark and Canada. Foreign Military Sales customers are also procuring and operating the F-35.
Lockheed Martin serves as the prime contractor with a global supply chain of more than 1,900 companies based in the US and in every nation acquiring the F-35.
All three variants have similar performance characteristics and the exact same advanced avionics. The variation between models allows military forces to achieve service-specific mission capability, while still taking advantage of the economies of scale that result from the parts and processes that are common to all three variants.
Photo credit: Giancarlo Casem / U.S. Air Force and Lockheed Martin