F-35 software development will be finished by the end of this year, Lockheed Martin has said – which contradicts the view of various American government audit agencies.
“We are well positioned to complete air vehicle full 3F and mission systems software development by the end of 2017,” said exec veep Jeff Babione, in a statement announcing that the fleet has passed its 100,000th flying hour.
The supersonic fighter jet’s onboard software will eventually be running Block 3F, the final revision as referred to by Babione. Ground operations will be supported by the Autonomous Logistics Information System (ALIS) suite, which was stuck on version 220.127.116.11 at the beginning of this year thanks to delays in rolling out a newer version.
Meanwhile, the Pentagon’s director of operational test and evaluation told a US Congress committee earlier this year that the aircraft won’t be ready before 2019, mentioning 158 “Category 1” software flaws that could cause death, severe injury or illness unless fixed.
The USAF hit back at these reports, announcing in May that Block 3F would be ready by “September or October” this year. Block 4 is said to be already in development, in spite of the delays to Block 3F. New software “drops” will be rolled out about every two years, with Block 4 scheduled for the beginning of the 2020s.
United Press International also took a closer look at the Block 3F aircraft software release, citing a US Government Accountability Office report from last year. “Using historical data of delays over the course of the program, GAO estimates that the Block 3F software package might need until May 2018 to finish SDD, as opposed to the program office’s projection of Oct 2017 to the end of the year,” reported the site.
The Times reported earlier this month that the cost of UK F-35Bs had increased amid various problems with the jets and the aircraft carriers that will host them in UK service, although informed defence sources immediately cast doubt on the accuracy of the paper’s reporting. Among other things it linked poor “broadband” speeds available to the warships’ crews with the effectiveness of air-to-ship communications links, as well as describing the NATO Link 16 encrypted communications standard as an “unsecured wavelength”.
The paper also pegged the cost of each aircraft at around £198m, though post-publication commentary appeared to suggest that the newspaper had included the through-life costs of each aircraft (i.e. spare parts, software upgrades, fuel, etc). The majority of public cost estimates are done on an “upfront” basis and do not include projected spares packages and the like.
Delays and cost overruns have been a frequent feature of the F-35 saga. Given the sheer quantity of software in not only the aircraft but its ALIS logistics suite too, it should be no surprise that costs have spiralled and unforeseen delays reared their heads. After all, since when did any Big Government IT Project run on time and within budget? ®