America's most expensive weapons system ever just hit another snag

F_35_in_flight

Lockheed Martin

America’s most expensive weapons system ever just hit another snag.

The F-35 Lightning II, Lockheed Martin’s fifth-generation fighter jet, is expected to miss a crucial deadline for successfully deploying its sixth and final software release, referred to as Block 3F.

Block 3F is part of the 8 million lines of sophisticated software code that underpin the F-35.

In short, if the code fails, the F-35 fails.

f35-final-finishes

Lockheed Martin

The latest setback for the F-35 stems from a 48-page December 11 report from Michael Gilmore, the Pentagon’s top weapons tester.

According to Gilmore, the stealth fighter won’t be ready by its July 2017 deadline.

As first reported by Aviation Week, the DoD report says “the rate of deficiency correction has not kept pace with the discovery rate,” meaning more problems than solutions are arising from the F-35 program.

“Examples of well-known significant problems include the immaturity of the Autonomic Logistics Information System (aka the IT backbone of the F-35), Block 3F avionics instability, and several reliability and maintainability problems with the aircraft and engine.”

F_35_air_force

US Air Force

One recommendation Gilmore gives for the F-35’s latest woes is to triple the frequency of weapons-delivery-accuracy tests, which are executed once a month.

Adding more tests to the troubled warplane will most likely add to the cost overruns and schedule delays, but Gilmore says decreasing testing to meet deadlines will put “readiness for operational testing and employment in combat at significant risk.”

According to the DoD report, the Block 3F software testing began in March, 11 months later than the planned date.

F_35s_in_flight

US Air Force

The nearly $400 billion weapons program was developed in 2001 to replace the US military’s F-15, F-16,and F-18 aircraft.

Lockheed Martin’s “jack-of-all-trades” F-35s were developed to dogfight, provide close air support, execute long-range bombing attacks, and take off from and land on aircraft carriers — all the while using the most advanced stealth capabilities available.

Adding to the complexity, Lockheed Martin agreed to design and manufacture three variant F-35s for different sister service branches.

The Air Force has the agile F-35A; the F-35B can take off and land without a runway, ideal for the amphibious Marine Corps; and the F-35C is meant to serve on the Navy’s aircraft carriers.

F_35s

Lockheed Martin

Despite the Block 3F software setback, the Marine Corps last year declared an initial squadron of F-35s ready for combat, making it the first service branch to do so.

The standard for readiness the Marines used, referred to as initial operational capability, is determined separately by each service branch when the aircraft has successfully demonstrated various capabilities.

IOCs are announced prematurely, however, in that all tests and upgrades to the aircraft, such as the Block 3F software update, have not necessarily been completed.

Still, Gen. Joseph Dunford, then the commandant of the Marine Corps, in July declared initial operational capability for 10 F-35B fighter jets.

The Air Force is expected to declare IOC for its F-35As later this year, and the Navy plans to announce IOC for the F-35Cs in 2018.

Even so, America’s most expensive warplane’s turbulent march to combat readiness is far from over.

once-an-f-35-is-ready-to-leave-the-production-line-it-is-carefully-rolled-

Lockheed Martin

Here’s the full report from the Department of Defense

TOP ARTICLES
Why the 'Butcher of Bosnia' faces a life sentence for war crimes

Ratko Mladic, a former Serbian general, will receive a verdict from the International Criminal Tribunal for war crimes he committed, to include genocide.

Russia swears a cloud of radioactive pollution is not a nuclear accident

A radioactive cloud is moving over parts of Europe, seemingly coming from Russia, reminiscent of the Chernobyl nuclear-power-plant disaster in 1986.

Taliban drug labs targeted by B-52 strikes overnight

American aircraft have targeted drug producing facilities in Afghanistan for the first time under a new strategy aimed at cutting off Taliban funding.

Why South Korea is building a unique missile interceptor

A missile system that could be used to target North Korea Scuds will cost Seoul more than $800 million to develop, a Seoul defense committee said.

SEALs honor the man who made the ‘frogmen’ possible

Last week, at the Omni Shoreham Hotel, a crowd gathered to commemorate the fateful event that gave rise to what would become the US Navy SEALs.

The 50 most violent cities in the world

Of the fifty cities on the list, forty-three are in Latin America, including nineteen in Brazil, eight in Mexico, and seven in Venezuela.

How the true story of Thanksgiving ended in a war

Just a generation after the famed Thanksgiving feast shared between pilgrims and Native Americans, the two groups were engaged in bloody battles.

The wounded North Korean defector is infected by an unknown parasite

The North Korean defector shot by his fellow soldiers has been found to be riddled with parasites his South Korean doctors have never seen.

North Korea's emerging free market threatens to topple the regime

Kim Jong Un's regime of dictatorship continues to be threatened as North Korea advances into the free market. Capitalism could be hero here.

This is the light attack aircraft the Saudis might buy

The Textron Scorpion's production-ready version will be at the Dubai Air Show, and the plane could end up being purchased by the Royal Saudi Air Force.