The F-35 program has been heavily criticized inside the Pentagon, with the high-tech program’s high operating costs and several set-backs drawing attention. In October, J. Michael Gilmore, Director of Operational Test and Evaluation, recommended the Defense Secretary advise for a restructuring of the program, according to Aviation Week.
The F-35A costs $28,455 hourly to operate, making it the second-most expensive plane in the U.S. Air Force or Navy/Marine Corps after the $33,538 per hour F-22A. Gilmore warns that the plane will not complete development by the time operational testing is expected to commence next August, and that most of the mission data file, weapons clearances, and flight envelope won’t be available until May 2018.
The F-35’s software package includes over 8 million lines of software code and is intended to give pilots an unprecedented level of information and control on the plane’s displays. Block 3F is the final software release and will mean that all of the plane’s warfighting capability is in place.
Despite the concerns from the DOT&E, the Joint Program Office (JPO) anticipates a slightly shorter timeline: Aviation Week says the operational testing may start in early 2018 and require an additional $530 million to cover unexpected delays.
“With some additional risk today, we believe Block 3F with full hardware, software, and weapons capabilities planned will be available to support LRIP (low-rate initial production) 10 aircraft,” Air Force spokesman Cap. Michael Hertzog told Aviation Week.
All of the funding will come from within the United States.
Meanwhile, Lockheed Martin and Texas A&M University are working on speeding up production.
Filed Under: Aerospace + defense