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​Four F-35A Lightning IIs prepare for takeoff at Hill AFB, Utah, May 4, 2016. Air Force photo by Paul Holcomb.

​Michael Gilmore, director of operational test and evaluation, says F-35 program leadership is not being forthcoming in an assessment of the program’s progress being prepared for Congress. “If not changed, the existing responses would at best be considered misleading and at worst, prevarications,” Gilmore said in an internal memo to Frank Kendall, undersecretary of defense for acquisition, which was obtained by Bloomberg. The assessment responds to a Nov. 3 letter sent to the Defense Secretary by Sen. John McCain, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee. In the letter, McCain expresses disappointment with “the troubled performance, continued delays, and persistent cost overruns” of the F-35 program. In his memo, Gilmore worries that the program’s answers “ignore acknowledged facts, are ambiguous and misleading, and if signed and sent as-is” might “generate substantial issues with the Congress.” The memo goes on to recommend the assessment “be revised to provide clear, accurate, and complete answers.” Challenging a number of stated program deadlines, Gilmore states that development flight testing would not be completed until mid-2018 “at the earliest,” that the commencement of operational combat testing “could be as late as 2020,” and that an Air Force promise that all F-35s delivered in Fiscal 2018 would have full combat capability was “highly unlikely.”