Thursday, March 14, 2013

F-35: GAO report

I'll be spending some time on this over the next week, but I thought I'd quickly highlight a pretty good summary to establish a baseline:
The F-35 program made progress in 2012 on several fronts. The program met or substantially met most of its key management objectives established for the year. Also, development flight testing exceeded the planned number of flights by a good margin for 2012, but did not quite accomplish the planned number of test points.  The program made considerable progress in addressing significant technical risks needing resolution, such as the helmet mounted display. Furthermore, software management practices improved, but this area continued to require more time and effort than planned. While the F-35 program made progress in 2012, the bulk of development testing and evaluation is ahead, is planned to continue into 2016, and is expected to identify additional deficiencies impacting aircraft design and performance. To date, slightly more than 11 percent of development contract performance specifications have been verified as met and the development flight test program has cumulatively accomplished just over one-third of the test points and test flights planned. The operational test community raised concerns about the F-35 readiness for training, development test plans and results, and the schedule and resources for starting initial operational testing in 2017. 
Probably the best and most objective summary of the good, the bad and the ugly you're going to see.  None of the hysteria you're used too in the critical press.  None of the odd implications, claims or wild assumptions to wade through.   Progress on all fronts, however, much more work (and testing) is left to be done. 

Note too that the summary makes a point about the progress on the helmet.  It calls the progress "significant".  Improvement in software development management too gets a nod with the added point that it is an area that is still behind schedule and a lot of work remains.  The report notes that production and costs "are trending towards targets and aircraft deliveries are accelerating."

What it doesn't do is try to paint the program as a train wreck as is so typical of the critical media.  It appears to give a good, objective look at the program, notes its deficiencies and challenges while also touting its progress and improvements.

We'll discuss both sides of that as the GAO has covered it in the coming week.  



  1. Perhaps the HMDS II solution is close?

    (Apologies for my non-existent skills in translating Norwegian to English)
    [b] - It goes slowly forward[/b] 28 Feb 2012

    "...Progress in technical development
    After much work has now identified or fully developed solutions to all the known technical challenges on the plane. This includes the most talked about challenges that helmet, software development and the protection against lightning.

    [b]- We see that progress with the helmet is now so good that one is likely to return to a solution at the next major milestone in April, and it will then scrutinize backup solution began to work with last year.[/b] Lightning Protection has now agreed on a solution, and restrictions on flights in the storm will be repealed in 2015, while software version "2B" installed in the aircraft. This is the software the U.S. Marine Corps will be operational in 2015, and where shortly after the use of F-35 in crisp military operations if necessary. The development of software in general, where we previously saw a backlog is now collected, and the development of Block 2B software is now on track to be installed in 2015. This shows that the measures taken just months back, now performing well, says Klever...."

    Another forum translation of the relevant phrase is: "...[b]- We see that progress with the helmet is now so good that [they/we] are likely to go back to one solution at the next major milestone in April, and [they/we] will then scrap the backup solution which began its work last year[/b]...."

  2. F-35 Program Status March 14, 2013 (120Kb)

    - Pilots have flown more than 4,000 flights and 5,000 hours with the helmet and our feedback from pilots at Edwards, PAX River, Eglin and Ft. Worth, is they love this helmet. During the fall, dedicated tests were performed testing the improvements we’ve made and the results are positive.

    - Block 1 and 2A software is supporting pilot training at Eglin.The same software will also be used to support flight operations at Yuma. Successful test results in flight test are seen at both Edwards and PAX.

    - Only 10 percent of the software is still in development...."