F-35 JSE Poses ‘Minor Disruption’ In Wake Of COVID-19

Credit: Lockheed Martin

The F-35 Joint Simulation Environment (JSE), used to test the fifth-generation aircraft against adversaries, is posing a “minor disruption” for the enterprise during the novel coronavirus pandemic because of its classified nature and the fact it is an enclosed space.

The F-35 JSE is an item that Pentagon leadership is specifically tracking because it is a hurdle the program must clear to achieve full-rate production. “It is mission-essential work,” Hondo Geurts, assistant secretary of the Navy for research, development and acquisition, told reporters April 1.

Geurts said his team is tracking the government’s capacity to get work completed “in spite of challenges with the workforce” and ensuring the tasks are prioritized. As the F-35 service acquisition executive, Geurts is working closely with the director of operational test and evaluation’s (DOT&E) office to make sure all entities are on the same page. 

On March 26, the F-35 joint program office revealed JSE verification and validation activities were being conducted in a “limited capacity” because of the coronavirus.

“We’re trying to be as creative as we can to work through the issues,” and the team is working to ensure the F-35 JSE does not “create a downstream impact to the full-rate production decision,” Geurts said.

Workarounds the team is implementing include how to make sure personnel are safe working in an enclosed space, splitting up shift work, and how to get the biggest returns for DOT&E. The JSE creates a synthetic world that allows operational testers to gauge the F-35’s performance in theater-level scenarios, with multiple aircraft flying against an adversary’s full arsenal of fighters, missiles, and electronic warfare capabilities. A dispute over intellectual property rights has delayed the effort by 2 1/2 years, and COVID-19 may add to the deferment. 

“I would not say we solved it or we mitigated it all yet. It’s a work in progress, but it’s got the department’s focus and attention,” Geurts said.