Still a Long Road Ahead

The F-35 strike fighter program is making solid progress and has completed about 20 percent of its testing, but challenges still lie ahead, senior Defense Department officials told the House Armed Services Committee’s tactical air panel Tuesday. “There is still a long way to go,” said Frank Kendall, DOD’s acting acquisition czar. “Many of the more challenging elements of flight test” are yet to come, he noted. F-35 program manager Vice Adm. David Venlet said the program “has schedule and budget realism now going forward.” His top three focus areas this year are: software development and performance; incorporating design changes and delivering affordable jets that will last their entire projected service life; and production quality. Software development, though, is the most difficult challenge. Michael Sullivan, director of acquisition and sourcing for the Government Accountability Office, said the F-35 requires an estimated 24 million lines of software code—roughly three times as much as the F-22 uses. “Software complexity on this program has no rival,” he stated. While the Pentagon has greatly reduced the amount of F-35 development and production concurrency, it already has a bill of some $373 million to retrofit early production aircraft, said Sullivan. (Kendall-Van Buren-Venlet joint statement) (Sullivan’s prepared remarks)