Full weapons tester report highlights F-35 availability, software problems

WASHINGTON — Lagging availability prices, flareups of recent software program issues, and a cussed quantity of open up deficiencies plagued the troubled and constantly delayed F-35 fighter in 2021, in accordance to a newly-disclosed version of the Pentagon’s weapons tester’s report.

For the primary time, the Workplace atmosphere of the Director, Operational Check and Evaluation in January solely launched to the general public an “uncontrolled” version of its once-a-year report. Particulars about shortfalls in very important packages had been being relegated to a “managed” — however however unclassified — version stored from the group.

The watchdog crew Enterprise on Governing administration Oversight acquired, and really final 7 days posted on line, the managed report, which fleshes out a number of the points hinted at within the publicly launched mannequin.

Dan Grazier, a military analyst for POGO and a vocal critic of the F-35 software program, talked about in a March 11 interview the Pentagon’s secrecy on this report is troubling and undermines the efficiency of its screening workplace.

“The Pentagon did go to really extraordinary lengths to attempt to cowl these particulars,” Grazier claimed. “That’s not the best way that is imagined to do the job.”

And in a March 9 publish on POGO’s weblog, Grazier mentioned the report reveals “stagnation and even backsliding” in some areas employed to measure the fleet’s reliability.

Lt. Gen. Eric Fick, software program government officer for the F-35 Joint System Workplace, defined in a March 8 roundtable with reporters, earlier than POGO posted the whole report, that 2021 was “a extremely superior yr for the software program, even with all the chaos that appeared to embody it.”

He pointed to the 142 F-35s the system delivered in 2021, beating the aim of 139 fighters, as an example of improvement — however acknowledged challenges remained with engine manufacturing and the ability to execute important simulation assessments wanted for a alternative on comprehensive-fee output.

A few of the F-35′s main remaining issues highlighted by the whole DOT&E report had been:

  • The F-35′s availability is even now lagging, and a deficiency of spare parts and completely-purposeful engines has damage it.

The F-35 noticed a “program substantial peak” in plane availability in January 2021, the managed version of the report mentioned, when it hit 70%. However via the yr, the report reported, availability prices “plateaued,” and in June began to slip forward of hitting a really low of 53% in September. Throughout fiscal 2021, the entire F-35 fleet averaged 61% availability, beneath its goal of 65%. The F-35 has persistently stayed beforehand talked about 50% availability contemplating that December 2018.

Of the frequent 39% unavailable at any specified time, 15% had been down for upkeep, 16% had been prepared on spare areas and one more 8% ended up present process depot upkeep.

The report acknowledged the progress the F-35 designed upfront of June was due to to 2 elements: an inflow of recent plane that didn’t demand time within the depots, and a software program effort concentrating on increasing the supply of spare components.

That spare parts enhance didn’t final, however, and the report mentioned the article-June decline was largely just because spare items weren’t obtainable once they obligatory. In a newly-revealed passage, the DOT&E report defined 15% of the F-35 fleet was sidelined owing to a deficiency of spare components in Could 2021. By December, an entire quarter of the fleet was down for that objective.

Grazier wrote on POGO’s web web site this has extraordinarily troubling implications for the navy’s potential to repeatedly maintain the F-35 ready to fly.

“What that implies is the F-35 didn’t immediately grow to be a much more reliable plane in 2021,” Grazier wrote. “It means that it takes superb effort to maintain the fleet working even near the mandatory concentrations and means that these individuals availability prices will not be sustainable extended-phrase.”

Fick acknowledged the drop in F-35 mission ready charges March 9 on the McAleese Safety Packages Assembly in Washington March 9, however pledged to deal with the foundation results in of the issues that led to that readiness lower, which embrace a scarcity of F135 electrical energy modules.

Fick additionally defined on the event the F-35 system is having a lot of steps to reinforce the properly being of the fleet, like conserving sections on the plane for an extended time, making certain satisfactory spare sections are available when these individuals areas are unsuccessful, and bolstering restore service capacity for a growing fleet.

“No program is finest, and a utility as intricate because the F-35 will often have challenges,” Fick mentioned. “However none of those challenges are insurmountable.”

The JPO declined to comment on info and info from the managed model of the report.

However that non-general public model went into further depth on the dearth of completely purposeful F135 engines, worsened by an absence of depot restore service functionality, that even additional drove down availability costs. This was particularly felt by the F-35A, the report mentioned.

An individual 7 days in June, there ended up 38 F-35s down awaiting a doing the job engine. By the final complete 7 days of the fiscal calendar 12 months, there have been being 52 F-35s ready round for an motor.

The businesses check out to manage the shortage of engines by offering combat-coded models the precedence to get spares in extra of examination and training models, the report claimed — however the shortage has nonetheless hit deployed fashions as very properly. The U.S. navy’s 214 battle-coded F-35s averaged 70% availability throughout 2021, however that quantity dipped as minimal as 63% at only one stage.

Proper after highlighting the progress created in plane manufacturing within the March 8 briefing, Fick acknowledged the propulsion aspect was “not fairly as great of a story.” The strategy hoped to provide 159 engines last yr, however solely developed 152, all however 4 of which had been late.

Fick talked about not one of the late engines led to late transport and supply of a technology plane, however the system is doing the job with Pratt & Whitney to get its motor deliveries again once more on program. Fick claimed the COVID pandemic — notably higher charges of absenteeism — skilled an enormous end result on this system’s capacity to provide engines on time.

  • Its program functions aren’t remaining examined totally for hid bugs — and, in at minimal only one scenario, a program that was performing good obtained damaged when a brand new performance was included elsewhere.

The F-35 program’s developmental examination groups haven’t been funded enough to do the suitable exams, information examination or regression exams on new software program program simply earlier than it’s delivered, the report defined.

In a passage omitted from the group mannequin, the report reported skills for the Objective-120 Refined Medium-Choice Air-to-Air Missile, or AMRAAM, that had been engaged on an earlier version of software program broke when the enhancement group tried so as to add capabilities for an extra weapon.

The F-35′s method to pc software program progress within the Block 4 modernization work, named Regular Functionality Development and Delivery and supply, or C2D2, goals to construct, check out and roll out program updates made up of smaller batches of recent capabilities or fixes to deficiencies every 6 months, as an alternative of getting many years to construct and produce all of the important skills at as quickly as.

However this technique has “confirmed unsustainable,” the report talked about, and the F-35 Joint Program Workplace extended that timeline of updates from every particular person six months to as quickly as a calendar 12 months.

This plan of action of incremental updates “typically launched stability difficulties,” or led to challenges with different skills, the report talked about. This meant operational check out fashions and trade fashions in a number of circumstances have been those to return throughout the issues — once in a while vital operational deficiencies — with the software program updates. Previous calendar 12 months, operational examination groups recognized points with the F-35′s weapons, fusion communications and navigation, cybersecurity and specializing in procedures.

Grazier reported this demonstrates the problem with fielding an aircraft whose format isn’t full.

“Should you’re more likely to have a pc software-driven design and elegance, you superior make completely certain that unique software program is the 95% resolution,” Grazier mentioned. “Even with simple packages, if you begin off creating alterations in software program in a single specific place, you might be very doubtless creating issues someplace else that ended up unanticipated. So that you higher make sure that your genuine version is actually near what you want — significantly forward of you start establishing lots of and lots of of them.”

Fick reported that because of a holdup of funding in fiscal 2021, the system needed to shortly droop many of the program’s Block 4 enhancement, other than for important parts this type of as digital warfare configurations. The arrival of money in 2022 approved this system to renew “the lion’s share” of Block 4 improvement, Fick talked about.

JPO spokeswoman Laura Seal mentioned in a March 16 e-mail the enterprise workplace “has shipped quite a few new skills and sustainment enhancements using the C2D2 agile assemble.”

“The JPO has taken feedback from our testers and prospects and used it to reinforce the best way we provide pc software program,” Seal acknowledged. “To this conclude, the F-35 group has manufactured vital progress in remodeling into an agile transport and supply enterprise. Finally, the F-35 technique delivers software program bundle on a warfighter-applicable timeline and our warfighters make a decision to think about this system centered on their evaluate of the added advantages of incorporating this utility into their fleets.

  • The amount of deficiencies has barely budged, primarily as a result of new issues retain popping up.

Final calendar 12 months, the DOT&E report tallied the number of open F-35 deficiencies at 871, 10 of which have been Classification 1 deficiencies, essentially the most actually severe.

That enhanced in fiscal 2021 — however not by an excellent deal. The F-35 skilled 845 open deficiencies, together with six Class 1 deficiencies, on the shut of the fiscal 12 months. That quantity was not shared with the general public till finally POGO produced the managed mannequin of the report.

The report acknowledged F-35 technique is acting on addressing difficulties which were acknowledged all through the method progress and demonstration course of. However the variety of deficiencies just isn’t shrinking considerably because of the reality new challenges go on to be situated.

By March 1, in accordance to essentially the most present figures from the JPO, that vary had developed but once more to 873 full open deficiencies. That entails 5 Group 1B deficiencies, which might severely have an have an effect on on mission readiness and proceed to maintain a mission from being accomplished, although there are not any open up 1A deficiencies that pose a danger to the pilot’s life-style or a decline of the plane.

Seal reported many of the new deficiency experiences stem from difficulties that emerged in new skills additional to the F-35. The JPO shut 171 deficiency tales in 2021, she claimed.

“Warfighters have assessed that appropriate mitigations exist for the remaining deficiencies,” Seal claimed. “Deficiency decision is an ongoing effort, and deficiencies are settled in live performance with warfighters’ prioritization and helpful useful resource allocation.”

She additionally acknowledged the attainable outcomes of open up deficiencies on missions or operations are documented in pilot manuals and coaching components.

However Grazier mentioned that the continuous discovery of recent issues signifies 2021′s lower to 845 open up deficiencies shouldn’t be observed as a sign of feat.

“It seems like they’re creating developments, however significantly it’s one specific part ahead and two-thirds of a motion again once more,” Grazier talked about.

Stephen Losey is the air warfare reporter at Safety Data. He previously documented for Army.com, masking the Pentagon, unique features and air warfare. Forward of that, he lined U.S. Air Stress management, personnel and features for Air Drive Conditions.