More Money, More Problems: F-35 Software Overwhelmed With False Alarms
MILITARY & INTELLIGENCE 03:24 13.03.2015 (updated 08:53 13.03.2015)
New problems - namely, false alarms from overly sensitive threat-detecting
sensors - have arisen with the beleaguered F-35 aircraft, so far the most
expensive, and problem-ridden, piece of military equipment in US history.
The sensors on the fighter that are supposed to detect threats - like incoming
missiles - often don't know what they're detecting and are returning a high
rate of false alarms, Breaking Defense reports. In addition, it is proving
difficult to integrate the "threat" data into the fighter's onboard software.
In order to make the alerts more accurate, the plane's system will require
highly complex sets of files - called a "threat library" - which then must be
incorporated into the onboard system. Creating that "library" requires
coordination of data from all across the military's intelligence community, a
highly complex operation in itself.
The 2014 annual report by the director of Operational Test and Evaluation, Dr.
J. Michael Gilmore concluded that, despite improvements to the software,
"fusion of information from own-ship sensors, as well as fusion of information
from off-board sensors is still deficient. The Distributed Aperture System
continues to exhibit high false-alarm rates and false target tracks, and poor
stability performance, even in later versions of software."
Thomas Lawhead, a civilian involved in integrating the F-35 for the Air Force,
agreed that the fighter's warning system "is still a little too sensitive,"
and that the threat information probably won't be ready until just before the
planes are scheduled to become operational.
There are different versions of the fighter being developed and the one
scheduled to be operational first is the Marine's F-35B which is slated to
debut in the summer of 2015. The Navy's is currently expected in 2018, if all
"Flying Swiss Army Knife" to Cost $1 Trillion
But if history is any guide, there's plenty of reason to believe all will not
go well. Since the program to develop the fighter jet began in 2001, it has
seen costs soar even as deadlines are pushed back repeatedly. Senator John
McCain (R-AZ) - hardly known as an outspoken critic of the military - called
the program "one of the great national scandals that we have ever had, as far
as the expenditure of taxpayers' dollars are concerned."
The program has already nearly doubled its original budget to $400 billion
dollars in spending - making it the most expensive plane in history. And that
doesn't take into account the $5 billion or so the military has spent to
extend the existing fleets this plane was supposed to replace or the $650
billion or so in maintenance costs the Government Accountability Office has
estimated will be necessary, which would bring the total cost to well over $1
trillion dollars over the next few decades.
Many attribute the difficulties of the program with the overzealous demands
from all branches of the military to incorporate features to suit their
particular needs all in one plane, with some calling it the Flying Swiss Army
Knife. The F-35 is supposed to be a bomber, a fighter, and capable of
performing ground support, but some of those capabilities have contradictory
needs. Add to it a load of highly complex computer systems and by trying to
please everyone, it may end up performing for no one.
In 2008 the RAND corporation - a think tank that works closely with the US
military - reported on a series of war simulations involving the F-35 and
their analysis was leaked to the press with its pessimistic conclusions.
"Inferior acceleration, inferior climb [rate], inferior sustained turn
capability," the analysts wrote. "Also has lower top speed. Can't turn, can't
climb, can't run."
Just recently, another software related error was announced, which means that
the fighter won't be able to fire its primary guns until 2019. It will also
not have the necessary software to operate one of its precision guided bombs
There's also been a lot of concern over the possibility that this supposed
state-of-the-art stealth fighter - supposedly designed to evade detection
through its size and special coatings - isn't actually very stealthy. Reports
in 2014 indicated that the F-35 might actually be vulnerable to Chinese and
Russian advances in radar technology.
The planes were also rushed into production before design was even completed,
meaning the military has spent billions of fixing already produced aircraft
that were faulty.
"This will make a headline if I say it, but I'm going to say it anyway," Frank
Kendall, a top Pentagon official, said in 2012. "Putting the F-35 into
production years before the first test flight was acquisition malpractice. It
should not have been done."
Post by Oleg Smirnov
The Latest Russian Fighter Jet Blows America's Away
Outgunned by the Su-30 family of aircraft and suffering critical design
flaws, the American F-35 is staring down the barrel of obsolescence - and
punching a gaping hole in western air defences.