UOTT Changes Leadership, Continues Joint F-35 Testing

  • Published
  • By 2nd Lt. Cameron Greer
  • Air Force Operational Test and Evaluation Center Detachment 6

The U.S. Operational Test Team recently welcomed Marine LtCol Dave Merritt as the first commanding officer of the UOTT.

Previously, UOTT leadership was combined with and lead by the Air Force Operational Test and Evaluation Center’s Detachment 6 Commander. The UOTT, formed in December 2019, is a joint team comprised of approximately 60 Air Force, Marine Corps, and Navy personnel. The team performs operational test and evaluation on the F-35A, F-35B, and F-35C models, and operates with congressional oversight. As part of AFOTEC and the Navy’s Commander Operational Test and Evaluation Force (COTF), the members of this team conduct testing that delivers unbiased, operational truth about the F-35 platform. This testing ensures the F-35 can meet both the current and future needs of the warfighter.

“As F-35 Follow-on Operational Test and Evaluation began to pick up steam, it was clear that the organization needed a commanding officer and LtCol Merritt was the perfect choice,” said Col. Dan Javorsek, AFOTEC Detachment 6 Commander and UOTT Director. “He is uniquely suited to tackle the challenges of leading a joint organization with such a critical mission. His experience will push this team toward becoming a premier test organization across the entire force.”

Merritt is a 1996 graduate of the United States Air Force Academy. He is also a 1997 graduate of the USMC Officer Candidate School and the U.S. Army Airborne School. His focus on joint operations led to his selection for Joint Specialized Undergraduate Pilot Training, which he completed in 2001. For the past 20 years, Merritt has completed several joint assignments as well as serving as a liaison between the U.S. and foreign partners.

The UOTT, based at Nellis AFB, is a geographically separated team with members at Edwards AFB, Calif., and Marine Corps Air Station, Yuma, Ariz. “Three different locations certainly presents unique challenges,” said Merritt. “However, I am confident the team will continue to overcome all challenges.”

“My goal as the UOTT Commander is to provide every team member the opportunity to be the best they can possibly be,” said Merritt. “Together, we will continue to forge ahead, building our organization into what it needs to be.” Merritt explained the UOTT continues to focus on the joint force operational test and evaluation of the F-35.

“F-35 units continue to deploy today,” said Merritt. “Whether it is an F-35A unit deployed to an undisclosed location in the Middle East; Marine and U.K. F-35Bs conducting combat operations from Her Majesty’s Ship Queen Elizabeth; or the Argonauts taking F-35Cs aboard the U.S.S. Carl Vinson, these Airmen, Marines, and Sailors need our help. We are here to ensure they have everything they need to do their job, in order to defend not only our own homeland against aggression, but fight alongside our F-35 partners and steadfast allies as well.”

The UOTT recently began testing the next software updates planned for release to the entire F-35 fleet. This testing will continue into spring 2022 and is led by a mixed team of Naval and Air Force engineers and analysts.

“The work that we do is independent of any single service, and our engineering teams reflect that. We are an organization that draws strength from our joint experiences,” said Merritt. “We examine every aspect of a new software load so that a pilot or maintainer, regardless of the uniform they wear, knows exactly what to expect from the platform. The job that the team performs can be complex, but our aim is simple -- proudly stand and look ourselves in the mirror each day knowing that we have done our very best to provide the Combined Air Force and Fleet the answers and products they need for success.”