A draft report from the Pentagon’s Director of Operational test & Evaluation (DOT&E), Dr Michael Gilmore has warned that continuing software and hardware development issues on the F-35 JSF program could delay the US Marine Corps’ efforts to achieve initial operational capability (IOC) in 2015.
The 25-page draft report is a detailed critique of the F-35’s protracted development covering the period from mid-2012 to April 2013, and has highlighted what is calls “unacceptable” performance of the aircraft’s software.
With the USMC planning to achieve IOC in mid-2015 with an interim Block 2B software build, the report says this may slip by as much as 13 months due to delays in completing Block 2B testing.
“Initial results with the new increment of Block 2B software indicate deficiencies still exist in fusion, radar, electronic warfare, navigation, electro-optical target system, distributed aperture system, helmet-mounted display system, and datalink,” the report said.
Other issues he has highlighted include ongoing development issues with the aircraft’s revolutionary helmet mounted display (HMD), weapons testing delays, difficulties in starting the jet, and problems with the development of the ALIS support system.
Gilmore also highlights the fact that, while the program appears to be meeting its revised test flight schedule which was reset in early 2011, many more test points are having to be added to the schedule than planned or are having to be re-tested due to ongoing fixes in the aircraft’s systems, thus putting the test points plan behind schedule.
“The basic design of the F-35 is sound, and test results underscore our confidence in the ultimate performance that the United States and its international partners and allies value so highly,” JSF program executive officer LtGen Christopher Bogdan told Reuters in response to the draft report which is due to be tabled at the end of January. “Of course, we recognise risks still exist in the program, but they are understood and manageable.”
Australia currently has two F-35As in build at Lockheed Martin’s Fort Worth facility, and these are due to be delivered to a USAF integrated training centre at Luke AFB in Arizona later this year ready for the commencement of RAAF pilot training in early 2015. Government is scheduled to make a decision on an additional 12 F-35As later this year for delivery in 2017. The USAF is currently scheduled to declare IOC with the interim Block 3i software in 2017/18, while the RAAF is planning to reach IOC in 2020.
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