Congress orders F-35 Software Plan

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Congress ordered the Pentagon to establish an independent team consisting of subject matter experts to review the development of software for the Joint Strike Fighter program.

The House Armed Services Tactical Air and Land Forces Subcommittee asked the Pentagon to submit a report by March 3, 2014 as part of the committee’s markup of the 2014 defense budget. The F-35 software program has served as one of the largest challenges for program engineers to keep on schedule.

“The committee continues to support the F-35 development and procurement program, and believes a software development review by the Department will ensure that the F-35 program remains on schedule to provide a fifth generation capability in support of our national security strategy,” the Congressional language states.

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 explained.

“Software development remains a focus area of the joint program office. We have a solid baseline and we need to be able to execute on that,” said Joe DellaVedova, F-35 program office spokesman.

Software drop 2B is undergoing flight testing at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., and Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Md; software Block 2B builds upon the enhanced simulated weapons, data link capabilities and early fused sensor integration of the Block 2A software drop, DellaVedova added.

“With 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]. This allows the plane to become a very capable weapons system,” he said.

Overall, DellaVedova said the F-35 program office has been making substantial progress. Software drop 3I, which is a technical refresh of Block 2B, is slated to by ready by 2016.

“This is complicated and labor intensive work but this has leadership focus from industry and government to deliver on the promise of the F-35. With its stealth and its enhanced situational awareness, the F-35 will provide a backbone for our forces for generations to come. Our progress continues at a slow and steady pace and we are focused on completing things within the schedule and budget we’ve been given.”

About the Author

Kris Osborn
Kris Osborn is the managing editor of Scout Warrior and a former associate editor at Military.com.

14 Comments on "Congress orders F-35 Software Plan"

  1. This should be fun, just think Microsoft Vista and how well that worked out for everyone. As a coder for over 20+ years, they are trying to make new code work with very old hardware ( weapons ) in some cases that were designed in the 80's & 90's. It may work with the new latest state of the art weapons built with more modern code & circuit boards, but the older 8/16 bit code & boards will be fun.

  2. Yada yada yada

  3. You have to remember that Lockheed deliberately chose one of the most bug prone languages to develop the 10 billion lines of code in. They then hired as many cheap inexperienced developers as they could find. Even a conservative estimate will be that there are 50 million bugs in the code.

    While this means the mean time between failure of major systems in the F-35 is 15 minutes it also ensures decades of revenue for Lockheed. Its a tradeoff – the future of Lockheed for the future of American air-power.

    We can be confident that the F-35 will never work as advertised, because it simply was never designed to.

  4. Folks can rant and rave, just like they did against the M1, Bradley, and F-22. This acquisition is a done deal. Move on.

  5. Oblatt1 must be Tokyo Rose reincarnated.

  6. On the bright side: Picture = saved. F-35s flying in formation is pretty sexy lookin', and that's coming from a guy who loves to make jokes at Lockheed's expense.

  7. Daniel Tebar | May 26, 2013 at 4:15 am | Reply

    Does anyone have info on the methodologies used for the development of these advanced avionics systems? Is UML in the mix? Is it OOA/D?

  8. Bugs aside, the biggest problem is still one of false expectation. Helmet Mounted Sights can work *very* well when kept simple & in the real-time domain where initial target / missile cueing information is simply overlaid – but that's not how the JSF works. It works by creating a "virtual reality middleman" inside the helmet which "represents" the outside world, and the pilot interacts with the middleman, the supposed "advantage" of which is to allow the pilot to "see through the canopy" (unnecessary if the jet had decent visibility in the first place), etc, but the disadvantage is that it's no longer in real-time – it's massively "laggy" and plagued with stuttering / micro-stuttering, sensor lag & input delays.

    "The JSF doesn't need to dogfight or see out of the canopy because it's so clever and will rely completely on EO-DAS + HMS" is already looking very shaky given the "not so clever" continuous targeting issues, latency and jitter experienced with both the EO-DAS and HMS. Sometimes IRST contacts have "dropped off" for no reason, other times it's taken far longer for it to recognize an incoming large IR target as a threat. The onboard computer is not powerful enough and is already plagued with over-heating issues (sometimes locking up completely). It cannot be replaced without major cost and yet more delays.

    And the AESA radar + super-computer + A2G targeting pod electronics all squeezed into the nose-cone is like sticking a 20kw heater in there making it highly unstealthy to anyone with a decent FLIR / IRST…

    What the F35 pilot sees can be over 1 second behind real-time (huge in any dogfight). This is what the "latency" issues are all about and they are nowhere near as easy to fix as simply upping the GHz on the CPU. It would have been FAR easier to give the jet decent all-round visibility and build a simpler but more reliable HMS that doesn't try and "stitch" a panoramic thermal display spanning multiple cameras, but rather simply overlay directional cues & estimated range of incoming aircraft / SAM's.

    Weapons and data-link software issues will probably be fixed, but I absolutely would not like to be on the team that has to "fix" the unfixable latency on the HMS which is an inevitable side-effect of its core-design. Processing vs latency – ask any real-time audio recording studio engineer…

  9. Juramentado | May 27, 2013 at 4:25 am | Reply
  10. Juramentado | May 27, 2013 at 4:25 am | Reply
  11. Are you sure it's 10 BILLION lines of code, not 10 MILLION? Because I've never heard of any company putting together even 1 BILLION lines of code.

    Windows, for example, has about 50 MILLION lines of code…..

  12. Restore Palestine | May 29, 2013 at 1:03 am | Reply

    Still 200 dollars cheaper than what lawyers cost (per line of written legal document)

  13. We had Microsoft products for a long time, and was always rebooting (Bill Gates)
    We retired and bought MAC products (they work). maybe the engineers building the most expensive jets in the world need to take notice.

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