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Schwartz Concerned About F-35A Delays

by John Reed on November 23, 2010

Check this out, it’s a tease from a story we’ll soon be posting on out sister site, DoDBuzz:

The U.S. Air Force’s top officer is concerned that delays in software engineering for the F-35A Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter could delay the service’s fielding of the jet.

“I’m still concerned, concerned on schedule primarily – a little bit less on technical matters – software, again, appears to be a potential pacing item here and that has me concerned in terms of deliveries,“said Air Force Chief of Staff, Gen. Norton Schwartz today during a breakfast with reporters in Washington.

He went on to say that while the plane is ahead of schedule in terms of test flights, test points and has had no “failures or surprises” structurally, delays in writing code for the plane have him worrying about whether it will reach initial operational capability by early 2016.

“There are some issues with respect to timing on software development, and we don’t have complete understanding on whether or not that will affect the IOC which was predicted after the Nunn-McCurdy assessment to be April of 2016,” said Schwartz.

He was referring to the, so called, Nunn-McCurdy legislation which caps cost growth on major weapons buys.  The F-35 program was reorganized by the Pentagon last spring after its spiraling costs caused it to breach the cost limits laid out by that statute.

The Air Force plans to buy 1,763 of the jets, making it the largest F-35 customer in the world.

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{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

Justin H November 23, 2010 at 6:54 pm

IOC of 2016? Screw that!

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roland November 23, 2010 at 8:50 pm

Call the manufacturer everyday…

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William C. November 24, 2010 at 12:51 am

Heh, maybe that will make them finish the aircraft on time.

With the exception of the F-35B which had it's STOVL configuration tested by the X-35B, there is nothing particularly exotic or unconventional about the F-35's airframe design that should be causing such delays, potential weight issues, and a price higher than the $60-80 million per aircraft planned.

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Justin H November 23, 2010 at 11:37 pm

Am I going to ask the obvious question here. Why no unmanned F-35s?! Have a mix of manned and unmanned F-35s. The military does want better UCAVs than whats under development… Here are some ideas for an unmanned F-35.

* Take out some/all of the cockpit equiment that wont be needed, thats obvious.
* Replace the canopy with a cover made of the same materials as the rest of the plane, which would make it a little more stealthy.
* Ditch the horizontal stabilizer fins, or make them very low profile (see X-36 and McDonnell/BAE's JSF)
* Ditch the either the DAS or the EOTS or both.
* Maybe make it a little less steathly (see international variant of the F-35).

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elgatoso November 24, 2010 at 12:04 am

Unmanned is not still there yet.If you see the problems with the UCAS we are far away from a unmanned F-35

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Justin H November 24, 2010 at 12:09 am

What problems? X-47B and Boeing's Phantom-Ray are on track as far as I know.

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Justin H November 24, 2010 at 12:17 am

I was wrong about the X-47B, I had to read up on it again.

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Brian November 24, 2010 at 12:14 am

You can't just take a jet fighter and turn it into a drone. A drone requires a highly sophisticated and powerful communications suite as well as extensive support crews in remote operations. Plus you need bandwidth. There is a physical limit to how many drones can be flown in an area remotely because we only have enough channels and satellites to support them. The us is really the only country in the world that can support drones outside our own borders in any offensive capacity because of communication limits.

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Justin H November 23, 2010 at 11:43 pm

BTW I didn't censor my last post. Anyway, I would reduce the number of manned F-35s by 1/4-1/3. Maybe 1/2 at the most, and make up the differance with unmanned F-35s and another 100-200 F-22s.

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Max November 24, 2010 at 12:15 am

Software delays? ha! So what else is new in the defense industry? The people who run these programs need to realize that you just can't churn out good code like hamburger on an assembly line. It takes a lot of time, and yes, money, to get it right. That's the reality. And we can't forget the military's penchant for constantly inflating the cost and delaying the project completion by endless changes to the requirements.

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William C. November 24, 2010 at 12:56 am

I only have some experience with basic level C++ programming, but shouldn't we have some sort of common software design for modernized legacy fighters, the F-22, and the F-35 by now?

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Max November 25, 2010 at 4:12 pm

The military just can't help itself. Every time they get funding for a new design of anything, it always has to be something completely new, cutting-edge (blah blah blah). It can't be just an update of something we already have, or an improved version rather. It has to be a Rube-Goldbergian contraption that is so complex that it takes several cancellations, cost-overruns, and re-dos to finally get it right. What I saw on the Crusader project taught me an awful lot about this horrible process. I actually loved that job, but it wasn't because of all the stupidity evidenced by the company in trying to fulfill a nearly impossible task; it was because it was so much fun getting to work on something that would be impossible to find elsewhere. That's the only advantage of working on defense projects IMO. Every once in a while, the industry and the military hits a home run, and those are no doubt lots more fun than the failures.

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Davis November 24, 2010 at 7:35 am

You know what I'm concerned about? Finding the F-22 pilot in Alaska.

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Superraptor November 24, 2010 at 10:32 am

The USAF urgently needs new jets. We need to stop putting many more billions into the F-35 program without delivering any operational jets. The F-22 line needs to be restarted to meet first tier threats and the F-35 program needs to be severely curtailed. New upgraded F-16s and F-15SEs and F-18SHs will do well against 2nd tier threats. This will actually save money and make the USAF more lethal. Stopping production of the F-22 was a colossal failure on part of General Schwartz.

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Justin H November 24, 2010 at 11:36 pm

Exactly. All but the first 10 or so F-22s have ground attack capability. Sure its not as swiss army knife as the F-35, but its here now. And with the Russians working on the PAK-FA, I think F-22s are better than F-35s to mee that challenge. But I think only 100-200 more F-22s are required. Remember the Air Force said they would like 380 Raptors, but a minimum of 271 would do.

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nelan72 November 24, 2010 at 3:55 pm

We need to keep up on having the best airforce in the world and advanced. The fleet that will be replaced should then be turned into the unmanned drones.

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