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​An F-35 assigned to the 31st Test and Evaluation Squadron takes off from Edwards AFB, Calif. The 31st TES kicked off the Defense Department’s F-35 Initial Operational Test and Evaluation with a large force employment sortie Dec. 5. Air Force photo by Scott Wolfe.

​The Air Force’s initial operational test and evaluation process for the F-35 kicked off with a Dec. 5 large force employment flight of seven aircraft flying different mission types at Edwards AFB, Calif. 

The 31st Test and Evaluation Squadron at Edwards has 10 pilots, 145 maintainers, and 11 engineers working on the program, alongside Lockheed Martin and the F-35 Joint Program Office, according to an Edwards release

During the first flight, the seven aircraft flew offensive counter air, suppression of enemy air defenses, and air attack operations aimed at determining “the effectiveness and suitability for the warfighter,” Lt. Col. Nicholas Ihde, commander of the 31st TES, said in the release. 

The Air Force hopes to finish IOT&E in late summer.​