Software test problems could set F-35 initial operational capability back more than a year, according to a Government Accountability Office report released March 24. “Delays in software delivery, limited capability in the software when delivered, and the need to fix problems and retest multiple software versions” could delay IOC as much as 13 months, according to the report’s executive summary. “Delays of this magnitude will likely limit the warfighting capabilities” of the F-35 by the planned IOC date. Furthermore, “it is not clear what those specific capabilities will be,” given the fact the software is still in testing, GAO stated. Flight testing is comprised of both the software and flight dynamic testing, which GAO reported is going much more smoothly and is achieving all test points to date. GAO warned that the Pentagon must “increase funds steeply” to an average $12.6 billion annually to keep the program on track, posing a budgetary risk.
The U.S. supports “a stronger and more capable” European defense, Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III said during an Oct. 22 press conference in Brussels—but that defense should not duplicate the functions and capabilities of the NATO alliance.