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26 Jan, 2022 15:53

US F-35 jet upgrade is ‘immature & deficient’ – reports

The $14 billion software upgrade has led to “critical warfighting deficiencies” in the jets, but is still being deployed
US F-35 jet upgrade is ‘immature & deficient’ – reports

The Pentagon is continuing to install a fresh software upgrade on its F-35 fighter jets, even though the programming turned out to be riddled with flaws, Bloomberg reports, citing a military testing report soon to be published.

The fighter jet operators discovered deficiencies “in weapons, fusion, communications and navigation, cybersecurity and targeting processes,” following the upgrade, the 13-page assessment viewed by the media says. 

It adds that the software required further “modification and additional time and resources, which caused delays.” 

The Lockheed Martin jet is heavily reliant on onboard software that includes more than eight million lines of code. The upgrade “does not adhere to the published best practices” and had “consistently failed to deliver the capabilities contained in their master schedule,” the assessment notes. 

The upgrade was designed to provide the jets with new capabilities and increase their computing power and memory. It should have also allowed the fighters to carry new munition types, such as AIM-9X Block II air-to-air missiles, all-weather Small Diameter Bomb II munitions or radar-killing AARGM-ER missiles, and even the B-61 nuclear bomb. 

However, the new processes “often introduced stability problems and/or adversely affected” other functions, as discovered by active-duty military units that frequently reported “critical warfighting deficiencies,” the document said. 

The report blamed the slew of issues on inadequate funding, which resulted in testing that was not comprehensive enough to ensure “unintentional deficiencies [were] not embedded in the software prior to delivery.”

The cost of the upgrade has already amounted to $14 billion, according to Bloomberg. 

The US Defense Department’s F-35 program office has so far refused to comment on this information, saying it would issue comments once the report was officially published. 

The F-35s, which were touted by arms manufacturer Lockheed Martin as one of the most advanced fighter jets ever developed, have been plagued by a string of technical issues and a series of developmental delays, cost overruns, and malfunctions. 

Most recently, an F-35C Lightning II suffered a “landing mishap” during drills in the South China Sea. The incident saw seven US Navy personnel injured. In early January, South Korea grounded all the F-35 jets it bought from the US after a landing gear glitch forced a pilot to perform a risky crash landing near a military base in the country’s west.