The F-35B “jump-jet” variant of the Joint Strike Fighter could be delayed more than a year by software problems, DOD’s Director of Operational Test and Evaluation told the GAO.
The production of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter is rolling along, with the Marine Corps scheduled to reach “initial operating capability” with its version of the plane by July of 2015. But glitches in software development and testing could push back the final delivery of the “jump-jet” F-35B to the Marine Corps by over a year, according to a new Government Accountability Office (GAO) report. Ironically, The GAO report was published on March 24—the same day South Korea announced that it would buy 40 F-35A fighters (the version being built for the US Air Force).
The F-35 has become the most expensive aircraft program ever, with over $84 billion already spent before a single aircraft has been delivered. By some estimates, the final cost of the program will be approximately $397 billion, with individual F-35B jets costing $196.5 million each. But due to cracks found in a number of aircraft currently in testing and a resulting redesign of some of the components, that number could climb even further.
The physical problems with the aircraft have not been the only source of delays—or even the biggest. There have also been several high-profile software problems with the F-35. One was an error in the fighter’s computer system, the Autonomic Logistics Information System, that associated the wrong part numbers with aircraft components and recommended grounding planes after repairs had been made. In an interview with CBS’ 60 Minutes in February, Marine Corps Lt. General Robert Schmidle, the Deputy Commandant of the Marine Corps for Aviation, said, “We need to have the ability to override the algorithms that are built into that system to determine whether an aircraft is safe to fly or not.”
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