The Defense Department plans to test Lockheed Martin‘s F-35 fighter jet in a close-air support role alongside the A-10 Warthog to determine the jet’s capabilities compared to legacy aircraft, Defense News reported Sunday.
Lara Seligman writes that the DoD Office of Operational Test and Evaluation will perform the comparison tests in 2018 as part of the F-35 program’s initial operational test and evaluation phase.
“The comparison tests on the close-air support mission will reveal how well the F-35 performs and whether there are gaps, or improvements in capability, compared to the A-10,” Michael Gilmore, director of operational test and evaluation at DoD, told reporters last week.
The activity will use the final F-35 Block 3F software and deploy the aircraft in formation for close-air support missions in various threat scenarios, the report said.
Seligman reports that while the tests will initially focus on the F-35 against the A-10, future tests could pit the F-35 against other legacy aircraft.
The Atlantic’s Russell Berman also reports Monday via Defense One that the comparison tests come amid concerns among lawmakers such as Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) over F-35’s ability to provide close-air support to ground troops as the replacement for the aging A-10.
The senators also pointed to the timing of the planned A-10 retirement by 2019, as the F-35 is not scheduled for full deployment until 2021, the report said.