Schwartz Concerned About F-35A Delays

Schwartz Concerned About F-35A Delays

The U.S. Air Force’s top officer is concerned that delays in software engineering for the F-35A Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter could delay the service’s fielding of the jet.

“I’m still concerned, concerned on schedule primarily – a little bit less on technical matters – software, again, appears to be a potential pacing item here and that has me concerned in terms of deliveries,“said Air Force Chief of Staff, Gen. Norton Schwartz today during a breakfast with reporters in Washington.

He went on to say that while the plane is ahead of schedule in terms of test flights, test points and has had no “failures or surprises” structurally, delays in writing code for the plane have him worrying about whether it will reach initial operational capability by early 2016.

“There are some issues with respect to timing on software development, and we don’t have complete understanding on whether or not that will affect the IOC which was predicted after the Nunn-McCurdy assessment to be April of 2016,” said Schwartz.

The Air Force plans to buy 1,763 of the jets, making it the largest F-35 customer in the world.

This comes one day after F-35 Program Manager Vice Adm. David Venlet briefed the Defense Acquisition Board (DAB) on his effort to retool the plane’s cost profile and schedule based on a sweeping review of the program, known as the Technical Baseline Review, that his office has conducted this year.

While Schwartz was not at that meeting, he said that Venlet briefed his preliminary findings on the F-35s progress to date and his tentative schedule and cost profile moving forward.

“That effort is not complete,” there will be another DAB meeting to finalize JSF plans in the Pentagon’s fiscal year 2012 budget, “which is really what this is all leading up to,” said Schwartz.

Should the final DAB meeting reveal a slowed F-35 production and delivery schedule, the Air Service is working on a plan to modify its aging F-16 fleet with everything from structural refurbishments to avionics and sensor upgrades, Schwartz reminded reporters. That plan however, depends on the outcome of that meeting, which is expected later this year.

All of this comes after it was revealed that the entire program could face additional delays, especially the Marine Corps’ F-35B short take-off and landing variant of the plane which could see delays of two to three years. The Marines’ F-35s are currently scheduled to reach IOC in 2012.

Furthermore, the congressionally-mandated defecit reduction panel recently suggesting nixing the F-35B in order to pour money into the more successful F-35A and C-models.

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For anyone not seeing the press briefing by Geoff Morrell in which he discussed the JSF Program issues, he alluded that there is more code to write that has not been mentioned by LM. This should be disturbing since there was already 8.6 millions lines of code being worked on openly, making this easily the most complex software ever written for a fighter. This brings to mind doubts about the validity of the claim by LM of the first F-35 flight with complete Block I software.

With all respect to General Schwartz, the following comment is incorrect:

“He went on to say that while the plane is ahead of schedule in terms of test flights, test points and has had no failures or surprises structurally” .

The rear bulkhead of F-35 BH-1 structural test aircraft recently has shown premature cracking at only 1500 hrs of durability testing which is far short of the 8000 hrs projected airframe life of the STOVL variant.

This problem is just the latest of a now long list of continuing technical issues that continue to plague the F-35.

Our military leadership need to start telling the whole story on this troubled fighter, and stop generating talking points designed to cover up the serious issues now routinely being generated by this program.

A good place to start would be admitting that early termination of F-22 production for the unproven F-35 was a huge mistake with long term national security implications.

“Schedule” being whatever is available. Not last years schedule and most likely not next years schedule.

Having stated that, it is the USAF that has to make this thng work. At this state in the game if Block 1 can get done: basic things like JDAM ability and AMRAAM and of course the gun and enough up time on the avionics, it will be a victory of sorts. Every other capability (proven reliability of Block II and III) can be deployed whenever it works. And–this may require less ambitious definitions of Block II and Block III.

A big trouble may be that the claim of operating cost being cheaper than an F-16 won’t happen.

In any event, the program is in a procurement death spiral. Time to change the grand exectations that were dreamed up 10 and 15 years ago and deal with it.

I agree with your last point. The Air Force should buy 564 more F-22s (for a total of 750) and buy 564 less of the F-35s.

The F-22 is three times as expensive as the F-35. Buying 564 more F-22s means a USAF with exactly and only 750 fighters with everything else retired to pay for it, and their ground crews will be really pressed to keep those F-22 Hangar Queens flying.

Note that it is a test F-35B that crumbled and not a much more sturdy F-35A.

But the F-35 is NOT a hardware project. It’s a software project. It’s like complaining that iPads only come in black.

Huh? You need to get up to speed.

F-22 three times as expensive as an F-35? Any proof of that?

As for F-22 uptimes. Best not to consult the Washington Post on those theories.

F-35 not a hardware project? With only a small amount of flight test done, that is a very courageous statement Prime Minister. Very courageous.

I would let the flight testing get done up to a useable level before making price and capability claims.

Perhaps you may want to brush up on what a F-35 is really going to cost, and sorry the F-22 is not three times more expensive, not anymore!

Considering the fact that the F-35 can’t fight its way out of a wet paper bag, 750 Raptors would be a miracle at this point, thanks I’ll take the F-22 with its 130–0 kill ratio any day.

The hanger queen comment ignores the fact that the F-22 has continued to get more reliable with every passing year in service. Then there’s the F-35 which at this point has had to have literally every system on the aircraft redesigned several times due to premature ware/parts failure of one kind or another, plus a redesign of the airframe to remove all the weight.

The F-35 is NOT a software project, it’s is a FIGHTER project, and a pretty sad excuse of one at that.

When you factor in upgrade costs for the F-22 it’s still not exactly cheap either.

Flight tests for the JSF(depending on the version mind you) are not all that bad, considering where the program was.

Buy more F22s and latest version/upgraded F15s. Can the JSF, costs too much for what you get. Cost/benefit ratio just is not there. This splits some of the fighter work to another supplier, which is what should happen for poor performance on JSF. Buy upgraded F18s for Navy/Marines. Maintaining millions and millions of lines of JSF software code will not be an easy job either.

He should be worried not just concerned. But he should also be worried about the totally unrealistic learning curve that’s going to theoretically reduce the price from the current $200M to $60M per JPO/Lockheed. Never going to happen.

He should also be worried that the price is dependant on lots of foreign sales that aren’t going to happen when the countries see the real price tag.

Lastly he should be concerned that the LRIP aircraft are going to have problems because they were built before the design was tested through SDD & OPEVAL. The mistake jets have no money set aside to fix them. Neither are they planning on all the depot time needed to fix them or what that means to aircraft availability for the TACAIR fleet.

The Air Force is buying the A model. The bulkhead issue is only a problem on the B model. The A/C models don’t have that issue.

The F-35 even in LRIP doesn’t cost $200m. The prices are ~$105-109m, and even that includes additional costs(i.e. not the fly away cost).

Excerpts from the New Amicus Curiae F-35 Dictionary and Thesaurus

Affordability: An amount of resources just above what has been legitimately budgeted; what can be stolen from other programs; and what can be borrowed from future generations.

Schedule: A living and breathing document suggesting predicted progress towards a decreasing set of goals, eventually merging at a point called “success”.

According to Mr Trimble at Flightglobal, the cost in LRIP3 is close to USD150m + engine (15-20m), that is way closer to 200m than 100m…

Lockheed knows that once the airframes are built they can charge through the nose for the software. Its the gift that keeps on giving, there are decades worth of bugs and associated charges to be made to the DoD in the software. This is after all a system that had a quadruple redundant failure in the flight controls as late as 2004.


“Subsequently the company was awarded about $3.5 billion modification covering the procurement of 31 aircraft. Including the long-lead funding previously received, the total contract value for LRIP 4 is $3.9 billion. This contract represents an average cost of $105–109 million per A and B type aircraft”

750 F-22As and 1200 F-35As for the Air Force sounds like a better mix to me than 186 F-22As and 1763 F-35As. The F-22A is supposed to complement the F-35A and fight planes such as the Su-35S, MiG-31, PAK-FA, J-11 and newer Chinese fighters while the F-35A does its primary missions: ground attack, reconnaissance, and air defense missions.


Raja, jeez, please try to check some data before quoting LM/Pentagon BS.
It is not 105–109 million per airplane, but 148 million plus (probably somewhere between 160–180 million USD) See article by Stephen Trimble: http://​www​.flightglobal​.com/​b​l​o​g​s​/​t​h​e​-​d​e​w​l​i​n​e​/​201

So when will Robert Gates acknowledge responsibility and step down? That day will be probably unofficial USAF anniversary (“New Hope Day”) and wooden F-35s mock-ups would be burnt to remember…

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Not only do I understand “Henry J Cobb”‘s “software project” and “hardware project” metaphors and totally subscribe them, I’m even inspired by their awesome synthesizing power!

Why don’t you tell us WHAT the most ambitious and promising (and most cost-effective, at 100 million $ …) part of a F-35 is:

1) Its “superior agility & dog-fighting skills” (come on…)

or, quite on the contrary,

2) its all-encompassing avionics suite, which even supersedes that of the F-22?

After 10 years of development, that 30-ton heavy, 100-million-$-pig still doesn’t fly, it only gets fatter and fatter, like Lockheed Martin’s C.E.O.s! So, is that your sincerest “FIGHTER idea”?

On the other side, should the F-35 soon be declared a stillbirth, then preserving, FINISHING and even further deepening its avionics / systems integration research and incorporating it resolutely into EVERY POSSIBLE U.S. fighter is by far the most intelligent thing to do!!!


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In my opinion, “Henry J Cobb”‘s “software project” / “hardware project” binomial is so brilliant because it simplifies and epitomizes the BIG , OBVIOUS difference between U.S. fighters and Soviet / Russian fighters in the last ~ 40 years, since TsAGI first produced the hyper-agile MiG-29s and Su-27s to counter the U.S.A.‘s A.E.S.A.-radar-equipped, satellite-killing F-15s: Soviets / Russians make fighters, U.S. Americans make software. And these two HIGHLY ASYMMETRICAL trends have remained pretty unchanged since then, perhaps because both Super-Powers seem to be patently unable to steer into their opponent’s R & D path…

Wow this man is a person after my own heart. Buy more F-22A and lets se Lockheed figure out what they did wrong with the F-35.
If they can’t fix it on there own maybe its time to bring in fresh ideas and help to repair this problem.

were going to get into a furball fight with the Soviet Union building new Fighters that are equal or better then the F-35, what the Air Force needs is more F-22 to counter balance this trend by the Soviets.

The Russians (not the Soviets) =) are partnering with the Indians to build a 5th generation fighter based off their prototype the PAK-FA Sukhoi T-50. If the Russians are willing to sell their best fighter to the Indians, then why not the Venezuelans too? Or to Iran perhaps? or to Argentina? I dont think we (the USA) want to be in a world where we dont have enough F-22As to go up against T-50s all over the place. What about the Navy? Will it have to use F-18s to go up against a nation like Venezuela, Argentina, and Iran that has Russian T-50s? Will two to four F-35Cs be able to fight a flight (four) T-50s in a head to head encounter?

The T-50 is headed down the F-22 path of stealth by dabbing silly putty on the aircraft. (Easy route to full employment there.) While the F-35 has Fiber Mat. So in any real world scenario the F-35 is a stealth aircraft and the T-50 is not. Thw “Terminator” falls to the “Baby Seal” every time.

Oblat have not source .He just made up

Since the software isn’t complete, all current unit cost estimates are wrong, unless you BRAINIACS believe that a pile of hardware with unexecutable, worthless software is capable of maintaining air to air superiority for generations to come against your bogeyman future China & Russian fighters. some of you guys are so amateur you should shut your traps and leave national defense decisions to qualified non-biased professionals.


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