USAF worries over F-35 delivery delay

The U.S. Air Force Chief of Staff, Gen. Norton Schwartz said on Tuesday he was concerned software development and production issues could delay the service’s plan to start using new F-35 fighter jets in April 2016.

General Norton Schwartz said the Air Force variant of the Lockheed Martin Corp fighter jet was doing better in testing and development than the Navy and Marine Corps’ versions, but it was not clear whether software issues would delay the start of their use in combat.

Vice Admiral David Venlet, the defense official in charge of the F-35 program, briefed Pentagon acquisition chief Ashton Carter and other senior defense officials at a three-hour meeting on Monday about the preliminary findings of his months-long comprehensive review of the program.

The Pentagon earlier this year restructured the $382 billion fighter program, adding 13 months to the development phase. Venlet’s review is pointing to a further possible delay of up to three years and added costs of up to $5 billion, sources familiar with the program said earlier this month.

“I’m still concerned on schedule primarily,” he said. “Software appears to be a potential pacing item here and that has me concerned in terms of deliveries.”

Lockheed spokesman John Kent said the company was bringing in more software engineers and adding a new test line to accelerate work on the F-35′s complicated software system, which involves over 8 million lines of code on board the new plane, and 20 million lines for the overall program.

Schwartz said the Air Force would examine the need to upgrade its existing F-16 fighters through structural modifications, and radar and avionics improvements, if the F-35 fighter wound up being delayed.

Asked if such moves would siphon off needed funding from the F-35 program, Schwartz said: “If the airplanes are not ready to put on the ramp, we’ll work alternatives. It’s not the preferred solution to be sure, but we’ll do what’s required.”

– reuters

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