Friday, August 26, 2016

F-35 is 'not on a path to success': Damning test report warns

The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter has been described as the 'most expensive weapon in history,' and with a price tag of $400 billion for 2,457 planes, the fifth-generation fighter has been plagued with issues. It appeared the tide had turned earlier this month when the U.S. Air Force declared an initial squadron of Lockheed Martin Corp F-35A fighter jets ready for combat. Now the Pentagon's director of operational testing has slammed the planes readiness.

Michael Gilmore stated the F-35 is 'not on a path toward success but instead is on a path toward failing to deliver the plane's full combat capabilities on time.' Gilmore also said the plane is 'running out of time and money' to address deficiencies.
Complex software capabilities 'are just being added' and new problems requiring fixes and verification testing 'continue to be discovered at a substantial rate,' Gilmore wrote. The Pentagon's F-35 program office said it remained in negotiations with Lockheed over long-delayed contracts for the next two batches of F-35 jets, deals worth about $15 billion.

To become battle ready, at least a dozen individual F-35 must demonstrate their ability to drop bombs and shoot down other planes. Each jet must be upgraded to a specific software package, and plugged into the complex logistics cloud that manages maintenance.
The problem is with what the Department of Defense officials call the 'brains' of plane, also known as the Autonomic Logistics Information System (ALIS). It is designed to support operations, mission planning and to spot any maintenance issues with the vehicle. It also allows pilots to plan missions and look back at their performance.

Recently, problems with its software system grounded the entire fleet. A DoD commissioned plan found that schedule slippage and functionality problems with ALIS could lead to $20-100 billion in additional costs. So far, the software has been so flawed that maintenance crews have been unable to use it at all. The report says a lack of testing done of the software will mean it's not ready for its deployment by the Air Force in August and the Navy in 2018.
It was reported that Canada could withdraw from the F-35 stealth fighter jet program on short notice by paying a little more than $300 million U.S. In 2006, Canada agreed to participate as a partner at a cost of US$551 million. That did not commit the government to buying the aircraft, although it provided inside data about the project and a chance for domestic aerospace firms to bid on F-35 work.
Canada’s liability would be around US$313 million – the difference between what it had already contributed and what was remaining of the original US$551 million commitment.