back to article F-35s failed 'scramble test' because of buggy software

The F-35 warplane still needs reboots to get the aircraft airborne, a US Senate committee has heard, and troubling problems persist in the project's security. US Department of Defence director of operational test and evaluation J Michael Gilmore's latest evaluation of the project is in this written evidence (PDF) to the US …

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  1. Magani
    Mushroom

    Bureaucratic obfuscation?

    "...achieving one “stability event” every 15 hours. "

    Umm, to a mere mortal like yours truly, I read this as being that it managed to be stable once every 15 hours.

    Shirley this might be better termed an 'instability event'? However, reading the test results to date, it might really be that it manages to get airborne once every 15 hours.

    Tell me again why Australia is participating in this farce? With the capability so far demonstrated, even our trans-Tasman cousins could overfly us with impunity with a flight of Plastic Parrots (CT/4 Airtrainers).

    1. DougS Silver badge

      This is how the US is preserving its air superiority

      Make a crappy plane that's sold all over the world, with plans undoubtedly stolen by the Russians and Chinese. Then the F22 that actually works and is superior to the F35 in every way, that we don't sell to anyone, is still king of the skies! Well, unless China stole the plans for it, too.

      1. Mark 65 Silver badge

        Re: This is how the US is preserving its air superiority

        Whilst on paper the F22 is king of the skies it's not really proven in combat against leading edge aircraft. I'd say the US isn't so certain about air superiority against anyone but stone throwing desert dwellers.

        1. asdf Silver badge

          Re: This is how the US is preserving its air superiority

          > I'd say the US isn't so certain about air superiority against anyone but stone throwing desert dwellers.

          Anybody that has a chance of matching the US in the skies already has ICBMs. Drones will rule the skies about the time the F35 becomes truly combat ready as well.

          1. MrXavia

            Re: This is how the US is preserving its air superiority

            >Drones will rule the skies about the time the F35 becomes truly combat ready as well.

            Completely agree, look at taranis, and the french version... they will produce combat ready drones before the F35 is ready...

            That is what I think is the secret plan for the aircraft carriers.. don't buy many F35's, just load up the decks with drones! still need the support crews, still need the pilots, but you don't loose the pilots when the drones get shot down, or a 'software failure' brings it down!

            1. Ian Michael Gumby Silver badge
              Boffin

              @Mr Xavia...Re: This is how the US is preserving its air superiority

              You do realize that there is more software involved in a drone than in a fighter jet right?

              If the US can't get the software right for a jet, what makes you think that they can fix a drone?

              Also food for thought.

              Remember the F-4 Phantom?

              Maybe it was before your time.

              The Air Force decided that air to air combat would use missiles and would occur at ranges before guns would be effective. So the F-4 had no guns, just missile rails and rocket pods....

              Then Viet Nam hit. the long story short... a gun pod was created ASAP.

              Got the point?

              1. asdf Silver badge

                Re: @Mr Xavia...This is how the US is preserving its air superiority

                >You do realize that there is more software involved in a drone than in a fighter jet right?

                Yes of course.

                >If the US can't get the software right for a jet, what makes you think that they can fix a drone?

                What makes you think it will be the US AF that gets it right? Some countries defense contractors and employees are actually required to be competent (some countries might actually for example hold a billion dollar failed virtual fence against Boeing). If the F35 has proven anything its that even nearly infinite resources can't polish a turd.

                1. Triggerfish

                  Re: @Mr Xavia...This is how the US is preserving its air superiority

                  >If the US can't get the software right for a jet, what makes you think that they can fix a drone?

                  What if the drones are designed more simply? If they are cheap enough and no living pilots, why not throw up a swarm? You lose a lot maybe but if you take the enemies pilots down you're on a winner.

                2. Ian Michael Gumby Silver badge

                  Re: @Mr Xavia...This is how the US is preserving its air superiority

                  "What makes you think it will be the US AF that gets it right? Some countries defense contractors and employees are actually required to be competent (some countries might actually for example hold a billion dollar failed virtual fence against Boeing). If the F35 has proven anything its that even nearly infinite resources can't polish a turd."

                  I wonder if you realize who are the defense contractors working on the F-35.

                  And if we look at what the EU has put together over the years... it makes the F-35 look like a wonder plane.

                  The issue is that the current school of Agile development doesn't work well when it comes to building

          2. Ian Michael Gumby Silver badge
            FAIL

            @asdf .... Re: This is how the US is preserving its air superiority

            One would think that drones would be superior.

            However, there is this thing called c.

            Its a silly little constant that represents the speed of light and its a nasty little constant that means that when you take the man out of the loop and make him a remote pilot... sitting halfway around the world, you have a delay that while flying a surveillance drone, may not be much of an issue, it would mean life or death in an air to air fight.

            Then there's putting a pilot in theater but not in the aircraft. You have other issues like radio jammers...

            The point is that it will take a while for the AI to replace a pilot. Not to mention that your drone will end up costing more than putting a man in the machine.

          3. Triggerfish

            Re: This is how the US is preserving its air superiority

            Wasn't there an Australian defence report, where they simmed current airforce with F35's versus the Chinese? I seem to remember AWACs, Airborne Tankers had a life span in a few minutes, and then it came down to you only have so many aircraft, and threfore missiles versus a horde of Chinese aircraft, scale that up with drones as well.

          4. SpammFreeEmail

            Re: This is how the US is preserving its air superiority

            Air combat drones before 2022.

            Very very likely.....and will kill pretty much any pilot driven aircraft soon after.

        2. HildyJ
          Facepalm

          Re: This is how the US is preserving its air superiority

          It's not about air superiority, it's about budget. The F-35 program will gradually be shut down (with no blame) and the next generation, even better, Top Gun fighter will start development. The promised cost reduction over the F-35 will vanish before the first prototype and by the first flight test overruns will be estimated at 90% (because 100% looks bad on paper). It's problems will never be solved either.

          Sometimes one wishes for a Russian solution - shoot the military project manager and vanish some culpable civilian contractors.

          As far as "air superiority", stand-off munitions can clear the skies far better and cheaper than pilots. Unfortunately, they don't make for heroic movies or inspiring recruiting ads.

        3. Bloakey1

          Re: This is how the US is preserving its air superiority

          <snip>

          " I'd say the US isn't so certain about air superiority against anyone but stone throwing desert dwellers."

          Having said that, the sons of the desert are very good with unorthodox weapons such as RPG 2s, RPG7s and various other projectiles that one would not necessarily consider as anti aircraft weapons.

          Do not forget that a suicide bomber is just a smart bomb made flesh. Different technologies but similar results.

          1. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken Silver badge

            Re: This is how the US is preserving its air superiority

            Ahem. The Sons of the Desert is the international Laurel & Hardy appreciation society.

            Also, I think that suicide bombers classify as 'not-so-smart-bombs'.

      2. asdf Silver badge

        Re: This is how the US is preserving its air superiority

        F22 isn't good for say close air support. The F35 was supposed to be a jack of all trades but its just a trillion dollar albatross empathizing why the Air Force is irrelevant these days (another great thing given to us by the cold war) and should be folded back in the Army where it belongs. Yes other services were involved as well but its the AF that is king of lobbying for pork projects and the one service that doesn't need to be standalone.

        1. Mark 85 Silver badge

          Re: This is how the US is preserving its air superiority

          While the F22 isn't a close support A/C, I note that the life of the A-10 has been extended, surprisingly. The AF loves fighters, ICBM's and close support.... not at all. If it weren't for certain political types and the Army/Marines howling, the AF would have been out of the close support business back in the 60's. But, they didn't want the other services to get some of the pork or control. God forbid, they might have done a better job than the AF.

          The F-35 is destined to be a very expensive laughing stock around the world.

          1. TimeMaster T

            Re: This is how the US is preserving its air superiority

            "The F-35 is destined to be a very expensive laughing stock around the world."

            Don't you mean

            "The F-35 is a laughing stock around the world."

          2. a_yank_lurker Silver badge

            Re: This is how the US is preserving its air superiority

            Close support is a mission the Air Fraud generals hate because it reminds them they exist to protect the army and navy. It and air superiority are the only two missions that ever mattered. Strategic bombing w/o nukes has been very expensive and not particularly effective.

            <snark> It does not matter the country, air fraud general is a synonym for traitor.</snark>

            1. Ian Michael Gumby Silver badge
              Black Helicopters

              @yank ...Re: This is how the US is preserving its air superiority

              Strategic bombing is a joke because the WH doesn't want collateral damage.

              Guess what? In war, shit happens. That means collateral damage happens.

              The Russians using dumb bombs were more effective than the Americans in their Syrian campaign. Costs a lot less considering that a dumb bomb is cheaper than a smart bomb.

              Were the Americans to bring in the BUFFs and carpet bomb the enemy strongholds... you will see hell on earth looks like. And the US could do this if they didn't care about the human shields used by ISIS/ISIL.

              This is a major difference between Russian and US policy planning.

              1. asdf Silver badge

                Re: @yank ...This is how the US is preserving its air superiority

                >This is a major difference between Russian and US policy planning.

                Yeah internal opposition to policies in the US don't wind up with rare fatal isotopes in their blood.

          3. Denarius Silver badge
            FAIL

            Re: This is how the US is preserving its air superiority

            indeed Mark. I also note that updated versions of the F15 are being offered.. If Cold War era fighters are being offered as cheaper alternatives, what does that say about insiders hope of making the F35 workable .

            A-10 life extension being pushed for, F15, F16 and F18 developments being developed by manufacturers all indicate a widespread scepticism about the new albatross. How about an updated YF12 dropping kinetic weapons at Mach 3 as was suggested once ?

          4. JLV Silver badge

            Re: This is how the US is preserving its air superiority

            Heh heh, you're only laughing if your country isn't buying that shit buzzard.

            Fails in fighter-intent aircraft happen. See P37, Typhoon, F106/104/111... Some of those achieved brilliant service in other roles (Typhoon). But it still required the acquiring nation to do a Plan B and use another fighter design.

            The F35 has that ugly stink of gangrene all over it. The diff is a) no one in charge is owning up to the mess and b) it doesn't look like it will be usable in _any_ role. Save perhaps as the VTOL version which caused the whole mess.

          5. Alan Brown Silver badge

            Re: This is how the US is preserving its air superiority

            "I note that the life of the A-10 has been extended"

            It has now.

        2. Crazy Operations Guy

          Re: This is how the US is preserving its air superiority

          "should be folded back in the Army where it belongs"

          If you're folding anything, then everything should be shuffled so there is a Navy, an Army, and an Air force. It it moves on Air, it goes to the Air Force; if it moves on water, Navy; if it moves on dirt, Army. There is no reason why every service needs planes, especially since all the services have their own weird planes that aren't compatible with those of any other service. All of the services also have special forces divisions for some reason. And there is also the redundancy between the Army and the Marine Corps.

          Really, everything should be shuffled so that we end up with 4 services: Air Force, Army, Navy, and Special Operations (SpecOPs divisions, cyber warfare, space, etc)

          1. TimeMaster T

            Re: This is how the US is preserving its air superiority

            Fun fact about the USA. The original Constitution only authorized the Navy/Marines, it forbid a standing Army and of course the Air Force wasn't even imagined.

            A Civil war, some amendments and technological advancements later and the USA now has everything their Founding Fathers didn't think a good country should have.

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          3. asdf Silver badge

            Re: This is how the US is preserving its air superiority

            > There is no reason why every service needs planes,

            Except for the fact that historically the Navy pilots have been the best (that whole having to take off and land on carriers thing). Naval aviation is just as much about the naval as the aviation which is why they have their own planes. The Air Farce obviously takes off and lands on land which is why they are the Army Air Corp. As for redundancy between Marines and Army all I will say is somebody has to be able to deploy in 48 hours with lighter gear and fight the battle and somebody needs weeks to deploy with heavy gear often not needed, always fighting the last war, botch it, and have the Marines fix it anyway (cough Fallujah). As for the Army Air Corp's other mission based on what a half ass job the Air Force has done with the ICBM crews lately (see cheating scandal, and drug dealer ring) they should be fine under the Army.

            1. asdf Silver badge

              Re: This is how the US is preserving its air superiority

              Ok so the Army and Marines thing wasn't fair (am biased lets say) but I stand by the Army Air Corp idea so they understand their place instead of simply as poorly ran pork factory.

            2. RPF

              Re: This is how the US is preserving its air superiority

              I hate to burst your bubble. but land-based aviation is inherently more capable than naval, since it is not limited to a short runway (or need the strengthening/equipment for carrier ops).

              You don't see many B-1s, B-2s or B-52s on carriers, for instance.

              1. SpammFreeEmail

                Re: This is how the US is preserving its air superiority

                https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Doolittle_Raid

                'nuff said........

                anyway what the frack is a strategic nuclear bomber doing retasked to close ground support......get real.

                1. asdf Silver badge

                  Re: This is how the US is preserving its air superiority

                  >https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Doolittle_Raid

                  >'nuff said........

                  James Harold "Jimmy" Doolittle (December 14, 1896 – September 27, 1993) was a reserve officer in the United States Army Air Corps,

                  Ok again what about this raid says we have to have a stand alone Air Force? Oh yeah because its still 1964 and we are still fighting the cold war.

              2. asdf Silver badge

                Re: This is how the US is preserving its air superiority

                >I hate to burst your bubble. but land-based aviation is inherently more capable than naval, since it is not limited to a short runway (or need the strengthening/equipment for carrier ops).

                Which is why we still need the Army Air Corp. The Army I guarantee can handle all the strategic roles of the Air Farce for a hell of lot less pork.

                1. Ian Michael Gumby Silver badge
                  Boffin

                  @ASDF ...Re: This is how the US is preserving its air superiority

                  The Army Air Corp is the USAF. Don't you know your US and World History from the 20th Century?

                  Post WW II the army air corps became the USAF and the Army was left with rotary aircraft.

                  1. asdf Silver badge

                    Re: @ASDF ...This is how the US is preserving its air superiority

                    No actually the Air Force came into existence at the start of WW2. Probably made sense at the time due to facing an immediate existential threat from nearly equals (often better) in technology and more so after WW2 when aircraft was the only game in town for delivering strategic nuclear weapons. That was a very long time ago though. My whole premise is the Air Force is run by incompetent shit birds and exists today solely as pork trough for the Pentagon, defense contractors and their lackey enablers in Congress. They are a relic of the cold war and what value they do bring to the modern battle field with the goat herder foes we face today would be enhanced under Army leadership thus my premise for them to be once again the Army Air Corp. Granted we may face more capable foes in the future but again my belief those foes will have ICBMs and or drones (or swarms of) at least as combat efficient as this shitty aircraft means the Air Force will probably just embarrass themselves or be irrelevant anyway. The days of massive manned dog fights are over. More likely our hypothetical advanced technological foe will just make our crappy electrical grid shit itself anyway and wtfpwn all the SCADA devices we have put out on the internet for convenience.

                    1. asdf Silver badge

                      Re: @ASDF ...This is how the US is preserving its air superiority

                      If we were going to bring the hurt on an advanced foe would probably be using ICBMs (in extreme cases) or cruise missiles launched from ships, subs or perhaps aircraft (likely off a carrier) but even if it needs be aircraft off land the Army could handle that.

          4. Lapun Mankimasta

            Re: This is how the US is preserving its air superiority

            "everything should be shuffled so that we end up with 4 services"

            You need to work out the purpose of the various services and their machinery. Eg, what are naval ships used for? Troop transport? Guarding the shipping lanes? Intercepting an adversary's fleet? shipping? Likewise, the Army - are you aiming to prevent an opponent's army from invading? Or just keeping them on their toes? Air Force? What's its purpose? Pounding an enemy's industries ie strategic bombing? (Good luck when your adversary doesn't have any heavy industries.) Close air support? Maritime patrol? Maritime strike? Denial of air support ie air superiority?

            The F-35 seems to me like someone never bothered to ask those questions of it, and in consequence no one bothered to answer them.

            1. Vic

              Re: This is how the US is preserving its air superiority

              The F-35 seems to me like someone never bothered to ask those questions of it

              I disagree.

              Someone quite clearly asked those questions - and the response was along the lines of "yes, that will do for starters"...

              Vic.

          5. Ian Michael Gumby Silver badge
            Boffin

            @Crazy ops guy ... Re: This is how the US is preserving its air superiority

            Please don't give up your day job.

            Army / Marines both need close air support as well as rapid deployment capabilities and rapid extraction capabilities.

            So you have helicopters, Ospreys, and the Marines have jump jets and Naval jets.

            Navy requires air support to protect the ships. Maybe you didn't learn your lessons from a certain WW I pilot who bombed some old ships to prove a point and pushed for the creation of the aircraft carrier?

            No?

            Please learn your military history before making such daft statements.

          6. SolidSquid

            Re: This is how the US is preserving its air superiority

            Unfortunately the politics don't really work out if you try and do that. The Army has been hugely reliant on the A-10 for ground support (given it has significantly heavier armour than any helicopter so can do low pass attack runs with minimal risk), but the Air Force has been trying to get it scrapped for decades because it doesn't fit what they see as their remit (air-to-air combat) and they think it's too old a design to be useable, instead wanting to scrap it and funnel the money from it into even more work on the F-35 (which has ended up not being finished anywhere near as early as it would have needed to be to take the place of the A-10)

          7. Alistair Silver badge
            Coat

            Re: This is how the US is preserving its air superiority

            @COG

            Somewhere, sometime, I think there is a military like that. Dunno why that military keeps whupping us ass in the war games.

            <the one with the maple leaf please>

          8. DoctorNine

            Re: This is how the US is preserving its air superiority

            The Marines would like to have a word with you in private, out back.

            And it's not 'Shazam!'

          9. Alan Brown Silver badge

            Re: This is how the US is preserving its air superiority

            "If you're folding anything, then everything should be shuffled"

            Take a look at how many military forces the USA has, none of whom talk to each other if they can avoid it and not counting the subunits within each one (who also don't talk to each other).

            $HINT: It's a lot more than 3

            At some point the whole mess is going to collapse simply because the GDP spend on military systems is unsustainable.

        3. weegie38

          Re: This is how the US is preserving its air superiority

          IIRC the US Marines are really to blame for the F-35 being a dog, since they weren't going to buy into the JSF project unless it had V/Stol capability?

          1. MJI Silver badge

            Re: This is how the US is preserving its air superiority V/STOL

            V/STOL is a mature technology, been done successfully since the 60s

            Great technology for smaller carriers

          2. asdf Silver badge

            Re: This is how the US is preserving its air superiority

            >IIRC the US Marines are really to blame for the F-35 being a dog,

            Actually whomever thought one airframe could handle all services should be the ones shot (looks like as usual it was a merger of several small clusterfscks into one giant clusterfsk to make it easy for the pork politicians). Still even on the V/Stol stuff you can't totally blame the Marines.

            In 1992, the Marine Corps and Air Force agreed to jointly develop the Common Affordable Lightweight Fighter, also known as Advanced Short Takeoff and Vertical Landing (ASTOVL).

            The JSF program was the result of the merger of the Common Affordable Lightweight Fighter (CALF) and Joint Advanced Strike Technology (JAST) projects.

          3. Mark 85 Silver badge

            Re: This is how the US is preserving its air superiority

            IIRC the US Marines are really to blame for the F-35 being a dog, since they weren't going to buy into the JSF project unless it had V/Stol capability?

            I'm thinking that they never figured that someone in DoD would say...."Ok.. we'll do that, and how many would you like?".

        4. Ian Michael Gumby Silver badge
          Boffin

          @asdf ... Re: This is how the US is preserving its air superiority

          The Air Force and Pentagon is being run by a bunch of bean counters who look at the logistics and costs of running a fleet of aircraft.

          Specialty role fighters cost more to maintain because your maintenance crew has to be trained specifically for each weapon system as well as the parts are not interchangeable. So the idea is to find an aircraft that can do multiple missions.

          The other issue is that when you put a specialty role aircraft in theater, you also need another specialty aircraft to maintain control of the airspace. (e.g. the A-10 needs someone to watch the skies above it.)

          Seems that they didn't learn their lessons from world war II. P-47 Thunderbolt vs P-51 Mustang in a ground support role. P-51 was an overall air superiority fighter yet the P-47 could take more abuse and provide better air support of ground troops.

          The F-22 is the best plane on paper because its a generation ahead of the competition. The Russians aren't going to put their aircraft up against it any time soon and they won't sell their latest tech to a third world nation any time soon.

          The F-22 was used for air strikes in Syria. I don't know what they learned from that experience....

          1. asdf Silver badge

            Re: @asdf ... This is how the US is preserving its air superiority

            >The Air Force and Pentagon is being run by a bunch of bean counters who look at the logistics and costs of running a fleet of aircraft.

            Then they have failed epically at their jobs as this will be a case study for how not to do a weapon system for a very long time. As much as I do blame the AF and the Pentagon a clusterfsck this epic takes a significant number of elected ass clowns to pull off.

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