The F-35 stealth jet is ready to fly, the Air Force said in early August, but not everyone agrees. Defense Department Director of Operational Testing Michael Gilmore said in an internal memo on Aug. 9 that he believes the program is “on a path toward failing to deliver.” In documents obtained by Bloomberg, Gilmore said that problems with the plane’s electronic warfare suite, weapons employment, and other software still persist.
Gilmore has criticized the program before, including calling the software’s deployment schedule “not realistic” in December 2015 and expressing concerns again in June.
Development “is running out of time and money to complete the planned flight testing and implement the required fixes and modifications,” Gilmore said. He listed about 15 elements of the software that aren’t yet ready for testing or haven’t had all of their problems worked out. Among these are systems that warn of enemy radar signals, the ability to share images between jets, and the software needed to deploy the Small Diameter Bomb.
Gilmore also critiqued the price of the program, which comes to almost $400 billion after development is complete.
His memos went out to Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James, Air Force Chief of Staff David Goldfein, and Pentagon Acquisitions Chief Frank Kendall.
James pointed out that initial combat capability “’means initial and over the next several years it’s going to continue to develop, and the word ‘develop’ is an important word too.”
The F-35 program is scheduled to be completely out of development in 2018 and into full production with Lockheed in 2019. The continuation of the program is dependent on the next president and defense secretary, who will decide whether to move into full production.
Filed Under: Aerospace + defense