The US Department of Defense has extended testing to debug software flaws that must be fixed before the first F-35 is fully integrated into service.
The Marine Corps expects its version of the F-35, the costliest U.S. weapons system, ready for limited combat as soon as July, various media reported Tuesday.
Air Force Lieutenant General Chris Bodgan said software testing in December revealed problems with the jets’ ability to fuse data about threats on the ground when four F-35s were flying at once. As a result, the aircraft had trouble identifying the number of targets. The fusion model sometimes creates an inaccurate picture for the pilot, Bogdan added.
Flight testing of software essential to delivering the plane’s promised capabilities was supposed to be completed last month, about four months late, but now may take until mid-June, according to the Pentagon’s test office.
The F-35 program has extended testing of modified software “intended to correct deficiencies,” Air Force Major Eric Badger, the test office’s spokesman said in an e-mail. “It began flight testing last week,” he added.
The deficiencies will be fixed later this year and aren’t severe enough to delay the Marine Corps declaration. The service “understands the limitations, and has operational workarounds to ensure they have the capability they need,” Bogdan said. Even with software deficiencies, the Marine F-35 will be able to drop bombs and fire air-to-air weapons.
A declaration that the plane, known as the Joint Strike Fighter, is ready for initial operations would be this year’s biggest milestone for the $391.1 billion program.