back to article Dodgy software will bork America's F-35 fighters until at least 2019

The F-35 multirole fighter won't be close to ready before 2019, the US House Armed Services Committee was told on Wednesday. The aircraft, which is supposed to reinvigorate the American military's air power, is suffering numerous problems, largely down to flaws in the F-35's operating system. These include straightforward code …

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                1. x 7

                  Re: "158 of which are Category 1" / severe illness / helmet

                  "The Boscombe Down museum has moved to Old Sarum - it's still called the Boscombe Down Aviation Collection, but you no longer need to go onto a military airfield to see it :-)"

                  I didn't know that - must solve a lot of security issues considering what Boscombe Down does

            1. Vic

              Re: "158 of which are Category 1" / severe illness / helmet

              I'd say the 'getting home today' bit would somewhat depend on where you land, though...

              Sure. You'll notice I didn't say "successful" or even "good", merely "best"...

              BTW - BDAC - Old Sarum Airfield Museum is now on my places-to-see list for my next visit to the UK*!

              Cool. It will be lovely to see you. Don't go on a Monday though - the museum is shut on Mondays :-)

              Vic.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: "158 of which are Category 1"

      As well as the effects mentioned by x 7, it's perhaps worth mentioning that current jet passenger aircraft have been known to get oil vapour in the fuselage due to the method of pressurisation. Given the sort of nasties you get in aviation fluids, it is at least possible that there are some problems which could get toxins in the pilot's air supply.

      WW1 aircraft were lubricated with castor oil, with exposed valve gear, which meant pilots were liable to attacks of the shits from the oil mist blowing over them. This tended to get counteracted with whisky. Thus dogfights between two drunks made more cantankerous by intestinal problems.

  1. Chris G Silver badge

    A question

    Did the F-35 programme start at about the same time as Vista?

    1. bombastic bob Silver badge

      Re: A question

      "Did the F-35 programme start at about the same time as Vista?"

      more like windows 'Ape' - but you draw a good parallel. "that kind of thinking". Arthur C. Clarke's "Superiority" (I posted on that already)

  2. wolfetone Silver badge

    You scared yet Russia?

    No.... I didn't think you would be..

  3. WibbleMe

    So my £250 budget PC Desktop with Ubuntu Desktop OS is stable as hell but a yank cant do it for $1B

  4. Caff

    drones

    Wonder are they sabotaging their own program to encourage the use of drones?

  5. Steve 39

    Presumably the UK government (the taxpayer) will be receiving due recompense for the delays to this project?

  6. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

    Abort. Eject. Sell leftovers for scrap.

    Buy chinese copy.

    Use money saved to fix schools, universities, roads, bridges, water supply, etc.

  7. Tank boy
    Flame

    What a disaster

    So let me see... The Pentagon in it's wisdom thought that after decades of inter-service rivalry they'd all get the same plane, just customized to the specific needs of the branch of service. The last time that happened was with the F4 Phantom.

    Troops on the ground are buying their own body armor because what we're fielding sucks to high heaven? Fuck 'em, we have to build this aircraft so we can maintain air superiority.

    Rifles/Carbines that were designed in the 50's? No way Jose, keep what you got, we need the newest and best, you ground pounders can make do with what you have.

    A pistol that is undergunned when the old one still had some life left in it, and is still being employed by special operations forces? Pish posh, we need to spend at least a Trillion dollars for the shiny shiny that will have no impact whatsoever on any ground conflict.

    Scrap the A10? Those days are long gone, drones can carry out those missions, the newest plane that won't be ready for another couple years will fill in the gaps.

    This should be a movie: Pentagon Gone Wild.

    1. ZanzibarRastapopulous

      Re: What a disaster

      "The Pentagon in it's wisdom thought that after decades of inter-service rivalry they'd all get the same plane, just customized to the specific needs of the branch of service. The last time that happened was with the ..." F18 which was rather good actually. oh err...

      1. JLV Silver badge

        Re: What a disaster

        > oh. err...

        The F18 is not flown by the USAF. There was less design-by-committee in its DNA. The Spanish, Canadian and Aussie air force just didnt have the level of input as this 3 way US service clusterf$&@.

        Looking at gen 6 plans, it seems that they're specifically flagging cross-service procurement as a risk to be avoided. Commonality in components, yes. Common airframe, no.

    2. Vic

      Re: What a disaster

      Fuck 'em, we have to build this aircraft so we can maintain air superiority.

      The F-35 is not an air superiority fighter. For all their faults, both F-22 and Typhoon fly rings around it. And I'm sure you could add to that list...

      Vic.

  8. codejunky Silver badge

    Hmm

    This seems to be the outcome of a lack of war. No longer are the vast sums of money spent on things that work and incremental improvements to achieve a goal, but instead to make a pretty thing to show off as 'advanced'. In the end it doesnt matter who has the prettier stick, it is functionality.

    Not a good sign when parts of the world are gearing up or kicking off.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Not the same code base?

    In relation to "He reported that around 60 per cent of aircraft used for testing were grounded due to software problems", why so? I would have thought they would all have a common code base, therefore all have the same software problems.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Call support

    Thank you for calling F-35 support how can we he;p you today.

    ...................have you tried powering it off and on again................I understand your running version 8.1 of the avionics software we recommend version 10..................have you installed any 3rd party hardware............

  11. ZanzibarRastapopulous

    pilots weighing below 136 pounds

    Ah ickle baby pilots!

    Presumably they'd need a booster cushion anyway?

    1. Duncan Macdonald Silver badge

      Re: pilots weighing below 136 pounds

      The smaller and lighter the pilot the better in fly by wire combat aircraft. Less weight means lower loading on the pilot from G forces and a slight improvement in aircraft performance due to less weight. Smaller means a slightly better chance that in the event of combat damage, the pilot does not get hit (as a smaller target) and a further reduction in G loading effects due to the reduced distance between the head and the feet.

      As the pilot does not operate any mechanical controls, the strength of the pilot is unimportant.

      (Of course the best performance is obtained by not having the pilot in the plane - modern combat aircraft should be UAVs . Removing the pilot removes 1000's of pounds of support equipment (ejection seats, displays, cockpit, oxygen supply, G suit, switches etc) and removes the G limitation caused by the frail human body. It also makes one-way suicide missions possible as only equipment will be lost - not people).

      1. ZanzibarRastapopulous

        Re: pilots weighing below 136 pounds

        Are you on the small side perchance?

        I do love the idea of the air force seeking out midgets. :D

      2. Vic

        Re: pilots weighing below 136 pounds

        Smaller means a slightly better chance that in the event of combat damage, the pilot does not get hit

        It's more about the distance between heart and brain - blood density is largely constant, so for any given g, the pressure required from the heart is proportional to h[1]. The smaller you can make h, the less pressure the heart needs to develop to maintain consciousness...

        Vic

        [1] I wish I could be bothered to work out how to do greek letters. That way, I wouldn't have to skate around rho-gee-delta h...

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: pilots weighing below 136 pounds

      "Ah ickle baby pilots!"

      Women pilots.

  12. Chris G Silver badge

    Armed and Flying X box

    Given the intense level of software control in this thing; I was wondering how well hardened the electronics are to physical hits from weapons, does it have multiple layers of redundant bluetooth links(joke) to the controlling surfaces or lots of fibre running in different directions to reroute commands? And how would a smallish airburst Neutron bomb affect a squadron of these with it's EMP?

    The F-35 sounds like the ultimate IoT product.

  13. Peter Christy

    Lessons of History....

    I would have thought that after the F-111 disaster, Brit governments would have learned their lesson! We cancelled a perfectly good British plane to buy a fleet of F-111s. The order was cancelled when it became apparent that the F-111 was never going to meet its contracted performance figures, but because our dimwit politicians never read the small print, we ended up paying for the things anyway!

    Regarding VTOL, the experimental Short SC-1 demonstrated back in the late 50s / early 60s exactly the problem of having a separate lift engine - dead weight and reduced payload in flight, and burning holes in the runway! The Harrier was developed specifically to overcome these issues. Something the American military was quick to recognise when the idiots in Westminster flogged them all off for peanuts......!

    1. ZanzibarRastapopulous

      Re: Lessons of History....

      > Regarding VTOL...

      Apparently this is one of the few things they seem to have managed to get working however complicated they've made it.

      The Harrier really doesn't cut it in modern warfare, it was barely a match for the Argentine sea hawks in the '80s. The USMC would expect to operate them alongside proper fighter aircraft like F18s.

      1. Green Nigel 42

        Re: Lessons of History....

        THe Harrier may not cut as a fighter against today's generation of aircraft, but is was designed for air interdiction and close air support missions;. The Naval fighter version came later.

        The Harrier shot down:

        9 IAI Daggers (Mirage V equivalent)

        7 A-4 Skyhawks (plus one write-off on landing)

        1 Mirage III

        ...and 3 other aircraft

        The Skyhawks is well liked by all who flew it for being tough & nimble. It was effectively used by the US Navy in ther training and adversary aircraft would well into the 1990s. (As seen in Top gun!). So not such a sitting duck for the Harriers to take on & beat (although the Sea hawks were heavily armed for anti ship weapons)

        One thing the Harrier has over the F35, is that it works, is in service and clearly better than nothing!

        So dear US marine core, can we borrow our Harriers back please, just until the F35B's come,

        1. ZanzibarRastapopulous

          Re: Lessons of History....

          >The Harrier shot down...

          Yes, the sidewinder was very good against poorly maintained '70s aircraft operating at the limit of their range.

          1. KeithR

            Re: Lessons of History....

            "it was barely a match for the Argentine sea hawks in the '80s."

            "the sidewinder was very good against poorly maintained '70s aircraft operating at the limit of their range"

            Any danger of you making your mind up any time soon?

          2. This post has been deleted by its author

          3. Green Nigel 42

            Re: Lessons of History....

            Prior to going to the Falklands,the Sea Harriers exercised against French Mirages, there the viffing ability (vectoring in forward flight) was further developed & refined so if they'd end up with a fighter on their tail, they could angle their V/STOL engine nozzles to brake suddenly, the Mirage would overshoot and the Sea Harrier would have a clear Sidewinder or cannon shot.

            It has to be said that Argentinian pilots are superb and gained the respect of the Harrier Pilots, the lucky thing for the UK is that they did not perform more aggressive patrols, as they did with the Mirages to knock out the few Harriers we had down there.

            I did notice that the Seahawk is capable of buddy to buddy refuelling, perhaps if they had performed that they might of been more successful with engaging the Harriers?

        2. KeithR

          Re: Lessons of History....

          "One thing the Harrier has over the F35, is that it works, is in service and clearly better than nothing!"

          Better than ANYTHING if you want VTOL and the manoeuvrability that comes from vectored thrust...

          1. Green Nigel 42

            Re: Lessons of History....

            Agreed, it is not only better than anything, if you want VTOL, but it is still the only thing after 47 years!

        3. Vic

          Re: Lessons of History....

          The Harrier shot down:

          9 IAI Daggers (Mirage V equivalent)

          7 A-4 Skyhawks (plus one write-off on landing)

          1 Mirage III

          ...and 3 other aircraft

          XZ457 took 4 of those kills. And we have her now ::proud::

          Vic.

          1. x 7

            Re: Lessons of History....XZ457

            that must have been a lot of work, rebuilding the wreck.....I presume she's way beyond ever flying?

            1. This post has been deleted by its author

            2. Vic

              Re: Lessons of History....XZ457

              that must have been a lot of work, rebuilding the wreck

              Yep.

              If you'll excuse the tiny images, she went from this to this.

              I presume she's way beyond ever flying?

              'Fraid so...

              Vic.

              1. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

                Re: Lessons of History....XZ457 / rebuilding

                Nice work, looking forward to see it IRL!

      2. KeithR

        Re: Lessons of History....

        "The Harrier really doesn't cut it in modern warfare, it was barely a match for the Argentine sea hawks in the '80s."

        I'm Sorry? WHAT?

  14. This post has been deleted by its author

  15. Dave 32
    Flame

    Idea

    Hey, why not convert the carriers over to handling Zeppelins? Those won't require a catapult, nor arresting wires. And, those Zeppelins were somewhat effective in the World War I.

    Dave

  16. bombastic bob Silver badge

    Arthur C. Clarke's "Superiority"

    anybody read Arthur C. Clarke's "Superiority"? See any similarities?

    This is the *KIND* of thing that happens when "the next generation" gets to do things THEIR way, ignoring the lessons learned in the past, re-inventing instead of evolving technology, like a bunch of "whiz kids" that just graduated from college and think they know 'schtuff' from shinola.

    Now, I don't know if THIS case fits the "whiz kid" paradigm, but it sure *smells* like it. You see it a LOT, in Microsoft's current direction, in various government administrations, and so on. And the cluster-blank that follows is *PREDICTABLE* when you are a student of human nature.

    When I went to a U.S. Navy advanced electronics school back in the 80's, the first slide they showed on the overhead projector showed a large hole and the backside of a donkey, with a caption similar to "the difference". (They wanted to make sure we understood, before proceeding). A similar ploy may be needed in dealing with the (mis)management of government contracts.

    or it could just be another example of optimistic underbidding catching up with reality.

    1. JLV Silver badge

      Re: Arthur C. Clarke's "Superiority"

      >This is the *KIND* of thing that happens when "the next generation" gets to do things THEIR way, ignoring the lessons learned in the past

      Mitchell and the US Navy circa 1920?

      Agincourt?

      French blue uniforms in WWI?

      Integrated infantry support tanks vs Guderian's panzers?

      etc...

      Not all changes are bad. Lots of wars have been lost by refusing to change.

      Despite taking unnecessary engineering and project risks, the F35 however still takes as a given the supremacy of piloted fighters in the 2040 timeframe, ignores the inconvenient fact that asymmetric warfare has decided several wars since the 50s and assumes that an innovative top-tier opponent (China) would meet its threat head-on with similar weapons.

      1. Vic

        Re: Arthur C. Clarke's "Superiority"

        the F35 however still takes as a given the supremacy of piloted fighters in the 2040 timeframe

        Piloted fighters might be supreme, but the F-35 won't be among their number. It is simply too slow.

        The 2019 F-35 (Mach 1.6, 50,000ft, 1 occupant) could not intercept the 1971 Concorde (Mach 2, 60,000ft, ~130 occupants).

        Vic.

  17. Marketing Hack Silver badge
    FAIL

    Hooray for the F-35!

    Providing the pilot survivability of an early WW1 biplane and the systems stability of Windows ME, all for a shade under $400 billion.

    In the long history of oft-FUBAR'd DoD procurement programs, this has to be the biggest boondoggle of all. When the planes are actually operational, the first place we should bomb is Lockheed Martin's HQ.

  18. Stevie Silver badge

    Bah!

    Presumably the shortarsed pilots run the risk of being fired through the canopy before it clears the way, while the chubmeisters will just end up sitting in the now open-air cockpit while the rockets fill the surrounding space with flames and smoke.

    The problem here is probably that the software is being written to the same standard as that for the commercial market - release one is the beta. God help the astronaut trying to land a LM with modern day code on board. No chance of being overwhelmed by data flow as per Apollo 11 thanks to ultra-enspiffinated electronics, but every chance of not waking up on command or hanging while it figures out where the internet (and its mommy) is so it can phone for updates before doing anything life-saving.

    Proper testing. Static linking. Germanium transistors. A proper Westrex console. Them was the days.

    Fought two wars, rationing etc, Suez etc, thin end of the wedge etc, more etc.

  19. bill 27
    Alien

    Contractor name?

    What's the name of the company developing this software? Where is the original contracting official working now?

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Internet of Things comes to mind......

    If the software is so terrible, I wonder if script kiddies in the next few years might be able to fly REAL combat aircraft IN REAL TIME from the comfort of their own homes.......much better that those old-fashioned shoot-em-up video games.

  21. x 7

    in service until 2070

    and now the Pentagon reckons the F-35 "Fighting Turkey" will be in service until 2070

    http://www.defensenews.com/story/defense/air-space/2016/03/24/f-35-fly-until-2070-six-years-longer-than-planned/82224282/

    given that theres no internal space for addons, retrofits, uprades, and the engine is already at the limits of performance then that's going to be on heck of a conjuring trick.

    We don't know if the composite airframes will last that long, we can be very very certain the stealth technology used won't be relevant by then - and we can be very very certain that by 2070 any manned aircraft as slow, unprotected and unmanoeverable as an F-35 will have all the efficacy of a flying coffin

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    and it kills pilots

    Which could be a problem in an actual war. I have a suggestion: require Lockheed's CEO to go on a diet to reach the critical weight and then let him eject from his product. Same for the bureaucrats and politicians hawking this disaster.

    US military procurement is rarely driven by actual need. The F-14 and A-10 were best in their respective classes, but had one fatal flaw: they were made in NY and not California. That just couldn't be allowed to continue. The Tomcat' s replacement added nothing but additional debt to the country, the A-10 was never really replaced. The F-35 will actually make us less secure because everyone already knows it will fail spectacularly in combat. It will be a case of an adversary coming out and taunting, "Go ahead, make my day!" At that point we'll all be ringing up our friends in Eastern Europe to see if we can buy back some F-16s.

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