John McCain added to a long line of harsh rebukes of the trillion-dollar F-35 Lightning II program on Tuesday, but things are actually looking up for the
fifth-generation stealth jet.
At a Senate Armed Services Committee meeting, McCain blasted the program as “both a scandal and a tragedy with respect to cost, schedule and performance.”
McCain has pointed out that the F-35 has been in development for 15 years, that the costs associated with the project have doubled, and that only 179 of a promised 1,013 aircraft have been delivered, but there is reason to believe the worst is over.
The chief of the F-35 program, Lt. Gen. Christopher Bogdan, told DefenseNews that the software problems that have plagued the ultra-complicated F-35 are starting to clear up thanks to “really smart guys at Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman and BAE Systems, who own the sensors and stuff, getting down into the nitty gritty and doing good root cause analysis.”
Bogdan claims that the software, called the 3i, that previously had an issue requiring F-35 pilots to reboot the entire aircraft have been resolved, and the craft can now fly for 15 hours nonstop, above the Air Force’s time requirement.
“I’ll make a decision at the end of this week whether that version of 3i software is it, I’m leaning towards it being it,” said Bogdan. “That’s going to be the version of software that the Air Force declares IOC with.”
The F-35 still has hurdles to clear, and another software update before it is fully capable, but the Joint Strike Fighter could be declared capable as soon as August of this year.
Also, as production of the F-35 increases, some cost estimates are actually dropping.
The F-35, once operational, will provide real time data links between pilots and ground forces, 360 degree visibility for pilots, and impressive stealth capabilities.
The Air Force, Marine Corps, and Navy are all awaiting their own separate versions of the JSF, along with 10 other countries.
Even McCain, after raging against the program on Tuesday declared that “We are making progress…We have challenges that lie ahead, but there has been some significant improvements as opposed to some years ago.”