Friday, June 22, 2012

The F-35’s “software problem”

Another issue critics love to wring their hands over is the software that is being developed for the F-35.  First, as they like to remind everyone, it is very complicated.  In fact a recent GAO report called it “as complicated as anything on earth”.

Uh, ok.  My guess is in the 1990’s code that ran a super-computers operating system could have been called the same thing for its time. But we developed it didn’t we?  So what does that mean?  Well, it means that the code being developed for the F-35 is an ambitious attempt to give it an edge that no other aircraft flying will have, but it is something developers obviously think is achievable. 

Lockheed Martin VP Steve O’Bryan updated us on that recently:

He said 87 percent of the software the F-35 needs is flying on airplanes today, including test versions of the next major block due out this summer. He said 94 percent of it has been developed in the lab.

“The variance is small and it is contained,” he said. “Lockheed Martin and [DoD F-35 program executive officer] Vice Adm. David Venlet agree the schedule is adequate to support the software build and funding is adequate to complete the software build.”

O’Bryan said that Lockheed has added a “$100 million lab” to work on F-35 software and added “200 heads” to the software effort. He said Lockheed and the program are “recovering schedule” on the software, and he laid down a marker for when we’ll be able to see how it’s going.

“The test of that will be when we release the complete Block 2A software to flight test – that’s where I’d be able to give you a metric to demonstrate that,” O’Bryan said. It should appear “this summer. I’d ask you to measure us to that.”

As Loren Thompson noted in a recent article in which he addressed the F-35’s software, there are “no show stoppers in sight, either in the hardware or the software.”

Critics seem to discount our abilities as a nation of innovators, especially in the technological area (somehow, it seems, able to know what is or isn’t possible with little or no expertise on the subject they’re criticizing). 

The F-35 is a developmental aircraft.  While it is true the aircraft has had problems, it appears that progress is accelerating in a very positive direction. Hardware, software, testing, you name it, it is trending well.

Remember that each time you read the purveyors doom and gloom saying what is promised is impossible.



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