The F-35 Joint Program Office has seen a dramatic increase in the stability of its Block 3i software, which previously caused the jet’s radar to regularly shut down. Pilots flying an earlier version reported a difference in “nanoseconds” of communication between the radar and the jet’s computer, prompting it to shut off once every four hours, Program Executive Officer Lt. Gen. Christopher Bogdan said. In the past month, test aircraft have flown 44 sorties with a total of 96 flight hours on updated software, and reported 15 hours between stability problems, Bogdan said following a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on Tuesday. A team of contractors from Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, and BAE Systems got into the “nitty gritty” of the software to determine bugs and find fixes. The program office expects to make a decision this week on whether this is the right version of the software to go forward with as the Air Force looks to reach initial operational capability later this year.
U.S. Air Force F-35s and F-22s regularly deploy deep into the Pacific region from Alaska, Utah, and Hawaii. In the future, though, the head of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command would like to see the Air Force permanently station fifth-generation aircraft west of the international date line—closer to China.