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Crucial Combat Tests on F-35 Jets Slip Further on Covid-19 Delay

  • Simulator testing needed to move jet into full-rate production
  • Buyers from Seoul to Warsaw are awaiting assurances on fighter
An F-35 Lightning II.
An F-35 Lightning II.Source: U.S. Air Force

A phase of rigorous combat testing meant to evaluate how well the next-generation F-35 jet will fare against sophisticated Russian, Chinese and Iranian air defense threats has slipped five more months due to Covid-19-related delays.

Versions of Lockheed Martin Corp.’s F-35 have flown hundreds of aerial exercises, deployed for overseas operations by the Marines and Air Force and attacked Taliban targets in Afghanistan. Despite all that, the $398 billion fighter program hasn’t been evaluated against the most stressing threats in simulators meant to replicate and then go beyond what’s likely to occur in real-world flying.