The James Web Space Telescope (JWST) is a large, infrared-optimized space telescope scheduled for launch in 2014. The imaging performance of the telescope will be diffraction limited at 2μm, defined as having a Strehl ratio >0.8. System-level verification of critical performance requirements will rely on integrated observatory models that predict the wavefront error accurately enough to verify that allocated top-level wavefront error of 150 nm root-mean-squared (rms) through to the wave-front sensor focal plane is met. Furthermore, responses in several key disciplines are strongly crosscoupled. The size of the lightweight observatory structure, coupled with the need to test at cryogenic temperatures, effectively precludes validation of the models and verification of optical performance with a single test in 1-g. Rather, a complex series of incremental tests and measurements are used to anchor components of the end-to-end models at various levels of subassembly, with the ultimate verification of optical performance is by analysis using the assembled models. The assembled models themselves are complex and require the insight of technical experts to assess their ability to meet their objectives. This paper describes the modeling approach used on the JWST through the detailed design phase.© (2010) COPYRIGHT SPIE--The International Society for Optical Engineering. Downloading of the abstract is permitted for personal use only.