In March of 2015, two test F-35Bs were flown testing the efficacy of a recent installation of software patches meant to address issues with the fighter jets’ communication avionics systems. Manufactured by Lockheed Martin, the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter is undergoing its final development stage. The F-35 program is the most expensive project in the most recent military procurement budget, accounting for 20% of the Department of Defense’s total acquisition costs (which is currently at $1.6 billion USD). Fraught with multiple delays and technical difficulties, the F-35 will cost approximately $1.5 trillion over its lifetime.
The aircraft’s Block 2B software system demonstrated poor performance over testing with regard to data link communication functions and weapons delivery systems, showing many false-alarms and poor accuracy. The F-35’s Automatic Logistics Information System (ALIS), which monitors the aircraft’s internal operations, exceeds weight limits of the plane and is also displaying inaccurate information. Other problems include: a required re-design of the fuel tank ullage inerting system, insufficient lightning protection, and other fairly significant issues. However at seven years behind schedule and $167 billion over initial cost estimates, the F-35 program continues with the US Air Force requesting an initial order of 19 units, the Marine Corps requesting 6 units, and the Navy procuring 4 units.
Fortunately, the Pentagon recently announced in March 2015 that the F-35 procurement price point has been lowered by about $7.5 billion USD from last year’s figure. However, the program’s research, development, test, and engineering (RDT&E) and military construction (MILCON) costs remain the same at $54.9 billion and $200 million USD, respectively. The Marine Corps is currently preparing for operational testing scheduled for May of 2015. The F-35 will run through short take off and vertical landing missions from atop the Wasp-class assault ship, testing the aircraft’s communication with ships, weapons loads, launch and recovery software, and overall logistics functioning. Operating capability for the F-35B is anticipated for July.
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