Military Aviation


“Being at Eielson AFB and showing the aircraft’s ability to operate in this environment will tell a lot of people we have a credible weapon system,” Robert Behler, former experimental test pilot

All three variants of the F-35 were recently brought to Eielson Air Force Base (AFB), Alaska for cold weather testing by the Joint Strike Fighter Operational Test Team (JOTT).

The F-35, which already completed developmental testing in sub-zero temperatures, will arrive in Alaska in 2020.

“The decision to station the F-35 here [at Eielson] has been established,” said Robert Behler, Director, Operational Test & Evaluation Office of the Secretary of Defense. “We’re not trying to prove or disprove anything. We’re just trying to make sure this weapon system has the operational capability it needs to function in this environment.”

As explained by Airman 1st Class Isaac Johnson, 354th Fighter Wing Public Affairs, in the article JOTT conducts F-35 pre-IOT&E cold weather testing at Eielson, 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-Initial Operational Testing & Evaluation (IOT&E) test event. 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. 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.

This print is available in multiple sizes from – CLICK HERE TO GET YOURS. F-35B Lightning II VMFA-121 Green Knights, VK00, 169164 / 2015

“We’re here at Eielson to prove the capability of the aircraft to operate under extreme conditions of cold weather,” said Behler, a former experimental test pilot who flew more than 65 aircraft types. “Being here and showing the aircraft’s ability to operate in this environment will tell a lot of people we have a credible weapon system.”

“It is a requirement of this weapon system to be able to operate in cold weather conditions,” said Maj. Gen. Matthew Molloy, the Air Force Operational Testing and Evaluation Center commander. “We are up here characterizing what that performance looks like and we will feed this information to not only decision makers, but also to the warfighter.”

Although the decision to base the F-35s at Eielson was made more than a year ago, the continued testing of the aircraft will ensure the DOD is delivering the most capable aircraft to the joint force.

A U.S. Air Force F-35A Lightning II sits on the flight line during pre-Initial Operational Testing and Evaluation on Jan. 23, 2018, at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska.

Photo credit: Airman 1st Class Isaac Johnson / U.S. Air Force

Artwork courtesy of

Dario Leone

Dario Leone is an aviation, defense and military writer. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviation Geek Club” one of the world’s most read military aviation blogs. His writing has appeared in The National Interest and other news media. He has reported from Europe and flown Super Puma and Cougar helicopters with the Swiss Air Force.

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