Mar 27, 2016

Plagued by problems, F-35 nowhere near ready to fly

The F-35 is the Pentagon’s great stealth hope for the future of air combat. With the most recent software failures, however, US officials are voicing concerns about the program, which is estimated to cost $1 trillion over its lifetime.
The fighter jet “remains immature and provides limited combat capability,” Michael Gilmore, the Pentagon’s director of operational test and evaluation, told the House Armed Services Committee on Wednesday, adding that the F-35 has “many unresolved significant deficiencies.”
Gilmore reported that the F-35’s latest operating system has 931 open documented deficiencies, 158 of which are Category 1 – classified as those that could cause death, severe injury, or severe illness. He called the current testing and deployment schedule “unrealistic” and estimated that the software won’t be ready before late 2018.
Of particular concern is the fighter’s onboard computer, known as the Autonomic Logistics Information System (ALIS). When the latest version of the software was delivered for testing last month, “it was so unstable that productive flight testing could not be accomplished,” Gilmore testified.
Three out of five F-35s currently considered operational have been grounded due to software problems. There are mechanical problems too – notably, the ejector seat that may kill pilots weighing less than 136 pounds (62 kg) and has “serious problems” with those weighing over 165 pounds (75 kg). For pilots weighing anywhere in between, about a quarter of all aviators, the evaluators estimated a 23 percent probability of death during ejection, and a 100-percent probability of neck injury.
Air Force Lieutenant-General Christopher Bogdan, the leading officer on the F-35 program, defended the troubled jet, arguing that developmental testing was “progressing steadily.” He gave the odds of pilots suffering a neck injury at 1 in 200,000.

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