The initial operating capability date for the F-35B Joint Strike Fighter short-take-off-and-landing variant may be delayed by several months due to software problems, Marine Corps leaders told lawmakers at a Senate budget hearing April 2.
“We are tentatively behind schedule. The IOC is forecasted for July 2015. We have every expectation that could be delayed by several months. It will continue to be conditions based,” Gen. John Paxton, Assistant Commandant of the Marine Corps told the Senate Subcommittee on Seapower.
The software issues were delineated in a March 24 Government Accountability Office report on the Joint Strike Fighter which found that delays in flight testing of critical software could stall delivery of F-35 capabilities.
“Challenges in development and testing of mission systems software continued through 2013, due largely to delays in software delivery, limited capability in the software when delivered, and the need to fix problems and re-test multiple software version,” the report states.
Mission systems testing verifies that the software-intensive systems that provide critical warfighting capabilities function properly, the report says. The Director of Operational Test and Evaluation predicts delivery of warfighting capabilities could be delayed by as much as 13 months, according to the report.
In addition, the report says delays could increase the already significant concurrency between testing and aircraft procurement and result in additional cost growth.
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., questioned Corps leaders about the report, asking if the software problems could have a lasting impact on the Joint Strike Fighter program.
“The GAO has been consistently correct on the problems with the F-35 they have not been wrong a single time. Do you think these software challenges could impact the F-35’s ability to be fully combat ready ?”
Lt. Gen. Kenneth Glueck, Command General, Marine Corps Combat Development Command, told McCain that the Corps would not declare IOC until the software is developed to meet the requirement.
The JSF program developmental strategy is, in part, grounded upon a series of incremental software “drops” — each one adding new capability to the platform. In total, there are more than 10 billion individual lines of code for the system, broken down into increments and “blocks,” F-35 program office officials explain.
Software Block 2B, while still short of the full final 3F software configuration, can provide data link capabilities and early fused sensor integration, program officials have said.
Block 2B you can provide basic close air support and fire an AMRAAM [Advanced Medium Range Air to Air Missile], JDAM [Joint Direct Attack Munition] or GBU 12 [laser-guided aerial bomb], JSF program officials said.