back to article 'Agile' F-35 fighter software dev techniques failed to speed up supersonic jet deliveries

Agile methodology has not succeeded in speeding up deliveries of onboard software for the F-35 fighter jet, a US government watchdog has warned in a new report. The US Government Accountability Office (GAO) said in its annual report into F-35 design and development that software development practices within the F-35 Joint …

  1. karlkarl Silver badge

    From what I have seen, the development methodology they used was not actually 'Agile'. It was one similar in principle to Agile but mostly reserved for tasks relating to student groupwork. Its technical name goes by 'Clusterfsck'.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Which is often what agile ends up delivering.

      I think it has its place if done in a certain way but it's often sold as a silver bullet and then implemented religiously and inappropriately.

      I also get a bit fed up being told that traditional "waterfall" projects spent a year analysing what was needed and then came back to the business three years later with something they no longer wanted. What a load of rubbish, I can only think of one government project which came close to that. All other projects kept in regular contact with the business and failures were usually due to issues in the business... moving goal posts, changing management whims, planned resources being put on other work at the last minute etc. etc.

      The whole waterfall image also present a false image of one slow thing after another. Again, not true in my experience. You always look at what can be done in parallel, or if things can be moved around if you're blocked on a point.

      Oh well, rant over :-)

      1. Allan George Dyer

        @AC - "came back to the business three years later with something they no longer wanted" / "failures were usually due to issues in the business... moving goal posts, "

        Maybe there's a connection here?

        1. Robert Grant Silver badge

          But whatever you do, don't assume goalposts will move and design a methodology around that. No sirree. Ride that waterfaaaaaalll!

      2. david bates

        >implemented religiously

        Unfortunately not. Too often its either used as an excuse to cut corners, to wing it, or if it starts off with good intentions to wing it when things start going pearshaped. I've worked on several projects where 'agile' meant 'we're not document - well - anything'.

      3. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        "The whole waterfall image also present a false image of one slow thing after another."

        AIUI the whole waterfall idea was invented as a straw man and didn't represent the way most people did things anyway, at least not until manglements read it and thought it was an instruction manual.

        1. /tmp

          the whole waterfall idea was invented as a straw man

          Ironically, Winston Royce worked at Lockheed.

      4. Robert 22

        In my experience, projects implemented using a waterfall model often run into problems because of faulty assumptions made early on. Aside from this, there are usually players who have motivations for producing misleadingly optimistic reports of progress.

        Conversely, I've seen very successful projects that were implemented using an iterative development model.

    2. don't you hate it when you lose your account Silver badge


      Maybe somebody should adopt whatever the IT people used getting the Apollo program to the moon. Just a suggestion. Who knows, might stop aircraft falling from the skys. Complexity doesn't have to equate to impossibility, it just sometimes take care and a bit of time.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Basics

        The agile methodology can't fix graft and fraud. The Apollo project succeeded in part because of a genuine will to succeed. The F-35 project was designed to fail by going over-budget. When that became clear and the project wasn't cancelled, they doubled down. The later it is the more money they make on it.

        Unfortunately because the lack of urgency isn't just impacting cost, what is being built has slipped in terms of both time and capability. It's decades late instead of it's development being sped up, it can't meet the requirements that were laid out 20 years ago, and by the time it is operating semi-reliably, it will be obsolete in almost every meaningful way. The trade-offs of fighter performance vs obervability by dotcom era radar systems don't look good 20 years later. And it will still be eye wateringly expensive.

        By the time the F-35 is combat ready, it's operators would be better served having put the money into combat UAVs and support craft.

        1. Alan Brown Silver badge

          Re: Basics

          "The F-35 project was designed to fail by going over-budget."

          Now it's just failed by.... failing

          One of it the chief goals of this aircraft was to replace the aging F16

          The USAF have just released a new RFE - replacements for the F16

        2. Julz Silver badge

          Re: Basics

          I think loyal wingman and it's ilk are where most are going.

      2. vtcodger Silver badge

        Re: Basics

        from Wikipedia "The Apollo flight computer was the first computer to use silicon IC chips. ... The computer had 2048 words of erasable magnetic-core memory and 36 kilowords of read-only core rope memory. Both had cycle times of 11.72 microseconds. The memory word length was 16 bits: 15 bits of data and one odd-parity bit."

        Which is to say, nowhere near as powerful as an Apple-IIe or the original IBM-PC. Probably coded by one person or a handful of people in assembler. Probably not capable of managing most of the subsystems in a 1999 Toyota Camry much less those in a modern fighter-jet.

        We've moved on a bit.

        Not that there isn't a lot to be said for keeping things a simple as possible.

        As for Agile. Haven't tried it or seen it tried, but creating satisfactory mission critical software is not one of the things I would expect it to be capable of.

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: Basics

          The flight computer was only one computing element. NASA had a few mainframes on the job as well. And flight-time computing was only a fraction of the total engineering effort.

        2. Alan Brown Silver badge

          Re: Basics

          "Probably coded by one person "

          mostly - and certainly vetted by one person - her name was Margaret Hamilton

      3. EarthDog

        Re: Basics

        Why amounted to adapting to new information as it became available, making things up as you go along, ruthless testing, focused on doing one job well, attracting the best people, and being results focused. You know, being agile. Not "Agile", that's a product, but "agile" which is a paradigm.

    3. bombastic bob Silver badge

      From the article:

      C2D2, or Continuous Capability Development and Delivery. This has been less than stellar

      I guess this is 'similar in principle to Agile'. And apparently, JUST as *FRAGILE*. Yeah it was supposed to rhyme...

      I'll just say it: Developing software to a moving target is NEVER going to get things done. Neither is meeting mania nor analysis paralysis nor changing directions so fast you could generate electricity with the circular motion.

      1. Robert Grant Silver badge

        > Developing software to a moving target is NEVER going to get things done

        Keeping the target static may feel like you're getting things done, but they have stopped being useful things.

  2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    "domestically built unmanned aircraft"

    Much better suited to future UK armed forces staffing levels. There'll be enough Air Commodores to fly the RAF versions and enough Admirals to fly the Naval ones. Finding enough ground staff for servicing might by tricky.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      >Finding enough ground staff for servicing might by tricky.

      Which was solved by cancelling the landing gear option

      1. uccsoundman

        >Finding enough ground staff for servicing might by tricky.

        The solution is simple; fly them to India for Service

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      >>>Air Commodores

      SX-64s ?

      Here's a more sobering stateside opinion of HMS WhiteElephant:

      "and U.S. pilots will comprise between a third and a half of the Brits’ strike-capable air wing."

      Rule Britannia.

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Will they understand our banter?

        1. Strahd Ivarius Bronze badge

          will they know on which side of the ship they'll need to land?

          and how US pilots will manage to work with tea instead of coffee?

          1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

            Apparently they were 'pleasantly surprised' at the idea of having a bar on warship.

    3. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge

      "domestically built unmanned aircraft

      Hopefully, not based on the "domestically built unmanned aircraft" that is... Watchkeeper

    4. hoola Silver badge

      You are assuming that the can land the things and be able to re-use them.

      Maybe it would be just cheaper to turn the whole UAV into the bomb or missile.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        In that case they'd use the whole lot up on training flights (see a comment above re Watchkeeper).

        1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

          The Watchkeeper had a problem with it's altimeter on landing IIRC

          One advantage of aircraft carriers is that they are pretty constantly at sea level (plus a bit)

  3. TaabuTheCat


    And the more I see the results of "design on the fly" (pardon the pun) in mainstream products like all of the 157 Microsoft portals, it's clear to me "agile", "CI/CD", and all the other cool buzzwords around this philosophy simply hide the fact that no one is thinking about the end before they begin. At least with waterfall you had to consider what "finished" might look like. Now? It's a dogs breakfast with constantly changing UI, levels of abstraction that make no sense, duplicate ways of doing similar things - none of them well thought out - and generally no cohesiveness at all to the product. And that's just O365, but I've seen it in other "go fast, break things" products as well.

    Good engineering and design is hard. Being able to change your mind - and the product - every time it becomes clear you haven't thought something through, or living in your own little world and not thinking about how what you're doing interacts with the larger whole, well, that's easy. It doesn't require thought or imagination and it allows you to keep pushing difficult design decisions down the road until there's no way out but to start all over now that you have some clue what you are doing. How about we just admit that "fast" isn't the end-all. Real engineering, real design matters too. And thinking about a usable end state and what it will take to get there needs to be part of the plan.

    I used to work with guys that thought of their designs as something that could be "elegant", and I saw that elegance more than once. Haven't seen it out of this new methodology, and I doubt that I ever will. Now get off my lawn.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Figures

      ..and that elegance often leads to adaptability meaning cost savings in the long run.

    2. sbt Silver badge

      Re: How about we just admit that "fast" isn't the end-all.

      Agree with the rest of your comment but I'd argue Agile, despite the name is slower vs. waterfall if you know what you want. It is suited to projects where the goals/capabilities/behaviours of the resulting product are unclear at the start. If you know what you need just design and build it without all the iteration and wasted time.

      For a fighter plane, surely it would have been quicker overall to decide what it could do and design and implement according to that?

      1. Robert Grant Silver badge

        Re: How about we just admit that "fast" isn't the end-all.

        That's exactly it. Agile isn't faster. Agile is more likely to give you something useful at the end (and also give you more useful things along the way). If you have the luxury of a huge discovery phase, and/or your requirements are already painfully clear, then you will need Agile much less.

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: How about we just admit that "fast" isn't the end-all.

          "If you have the luxury of a huge discovery phase, and/or your requirements are already painfully clear, then you will need Agile much less."

          Take out the "and from "and/or" because if your requirements are clear then why would you need a huge discovery phase? So now we have "if you have the luxury of a huge discovery phase you need Agile much less" and you have "If your requirements are painfully clear you need Agile much less". That leads me to the situation that you need Agile if you have unclear requirements and not enough time to find out what they are. Those are projects that are doomed from the start so it's not going to help anyway. So we're left with the situation that a project that's feasible doesn't need Agile.

    3. A Non e-mouse Silver badge

      Re: Figures

      The problem Agile is trying to fix is having a project that takes X years to deliver then isn't appropriate because either the customer asked the wrong questions or the requirements changed and you couldn't change the design as it had been locked in.

      The problem I've seen with Agile is that a section/module is shipped and then never updated as leasons are learned through the development of the complete project. This, as you mention, can lead to an incoherent product.

      All methodolies have good and bad parts (for the project you're working on) The skill is picking the right parts for your project/circumstance.

      1. juice Silver badge

        Re: Figures

        > The problem I've seen with Agile is that a section/module is shipped and then never updated as leasons are learned through the development of the complete project. This, as you mention, can lead to an incoherent product.

        Way back when, I worked for a telecomms which had recently brought in a new CIO, who had decreed that the entire company needed to switch to "agile" methodologies.

        And that course stressed the concept of a "minimum viable product". Which essentially equated to "build just what you need to satisfy the current sprint"

        (Interestingly, the agile community has made an effort to repurpose/reclaim this terminology to mean "build a prototype which you can use to get feedback from the customer", complete with some snarky comments about how people misunderstood what it meant....

        And this caused caused a few raised eyebrows.

        In the first instance, the people who dealt with hardware rollouts - such as deploying the network infrastructure to a new building - were a bit bemused at the concept of splitting stuff into sprints, since that's much more of an "all or nothing" process which far more closely aligns to the waterfall model; all your planning needs to be done up front before you start plugging in kit and pulling through cables.

        In the second instance, I questioned the principle of only delivering what was needed for the current sprint. The trainer was using the analogy of building a house floor by floor, so I used this to point out that if you want to add an extra floor, then you need to make sure the ground floor is specc'd to handle the weight (e.g. if you decide to go for a bathroom with a built in hot tub on the first floor). And similarly, if you then decide to add a second floor, then you need to make sure that both the ground floor and the first floor can carry the weight.

        And so on.

        Fundamentally, you should always do some work to make sure that whatever you're creating is scalable, both in terms of volume and features. And that directly conflicts with the concept of "just build what you need for now".

        And for an added bonus, no matter how agile you think your processes are, there's a huge amount of intertia involved in going back and rebuilding something that's already been deployed.

        Unfortunately, that's something which people often seem to forget when planning agile sprints; the focus is on "now", not "tomorrow".

        Arguably, that's not a fault with agile per se, but rather a fault of the people implementing it. On the other hand, if it's something that a lot of people get consistently wrong, then maybe it's time to change the way that the methodology itself is structured...

        1. Strahd Ivarius Bronze badge

          Re: Figures

          I had the same kind of experience (twice) with Agile projects in IT.

          As long as you need only to deploy the result of your sprint to servers, you are mostly fine.

          As soon as you need to deploy the result to the end-users computers, then you run into troubles because you have lots of external constraints to take into account .

          One of the most important being; don't disturb the users when they are working, they are the ones bringing in the money!

        2. veti Silver badge

          Re: Figures

          The methodology that is usually called "agile" nowadays (more specifically, "scrum") was developed to handle the scenario where a waterfall project had failed. A project had been attempted, but it was over budget or past schedule and hadn't yet delivered anything useful.

          In that scenario, there are requirements (although they're probably wrong) and a pile of code that's at least somewhat related to the project. And given that starting point, scrum can indeed deliver great things, and deliver them quickly.

          The problem, IMO, appears when it's adopted as a methodology in its own right, without any such starting point. In that case it needs much more structure/specific requirements, and even with those in place it's much less powerful (because it no longer gets to stand on the shoulders of giants).

    4. Greybearded old scrote Silver badge

      Re: Figures

      Yeah fighters are supposed to "go fast, break things," but usually you want to break the other guy's things.

      1. Greybearded old scrote Silver badge

        Re: Figures

        Speaking of which, an F35 managed to shoot itself recently.

        1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

          Re: Figures

          Speaking of which, an F35 managed to shoot itself recently.

          The F-35's systems are so advanced and intelligent, it developed depression and wanted out. There were some other odd problems, like engine degradation leading to developing problems and heavy landings. Or pilots developing barotrauma due to cockpit pressure changes. Or non-US operators not being able to keep secret details of how they're using their F-35s.

          Turning the UK's carriers into drone motherships seems like a much better idea.

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Figures

      it's clear to me "agile", "CI/CD", and all the other cool buzzwords

      Agile or not - CI/CD is not a buzzword. If you have a problem with automated testing to validate quality and want to make manual software releases...

      Agile doesn't mean changing your mind or design constantly - in fact, that's a sign that a team or owner is NOT actually doing agile, they're just winging it. In a proper agile project, you need to have a clear goal/vision from the product owner - that doesn't change over the course of the project - and a clear plan from the technical lead and architects that describes in broad strokes all of the technology to be used and the rough order that work will be undertaken in. This can takes months or even years before the agile dev team start working on it.

      Where agile then comes in is taking these broad strokes (epics) and revising them into actionable work (cases), putting rough estimates on the cases and determining a timeline. The key points of agile are in continuous revising of these estimates and tracking team efficiency in order to track progress and estimate completion dates.

      Done right, its waterfall with slightly less upfront planning - the last 3 agile projects I've worked on delivered on time, on budget and with the features we said we'd deliver. Done wrong (and it often is), the team starts with no clear purpose, the project owner aiming to "discover" what they want going along, the team fails to deliver on time, and the end date for the project continually slips.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Figures

        Your "Agile" sounds very much like software development but without the buzz words.

  4. a_yank_lurker Silver badge


    Too many forget that you need to think seriously and actually have a solid idea before having code wranglers at a project. I have some nominally 'agile' projects come past me with virtually no specifications were someone has thought through the scenarios and have a general idea of how they should be handled. It makes for code that is impossible to properly maintain when it is found out that major use cases were never considered in the design given to the programmers. Use cases never considered by the programmers because they did not know about them.

    Agile does not mean there are not design documents and preplanning but that groups are in contact with each other throughout the process. Issues are dealt with as they arise not after the fact.

    1. Joe W Silver badge

      Re: UnAgile

      Have one of those ----->

      There is a tendency to "make everything agile", by which magmt means... actually: I'm not sure what (if) they think. Then there are some colleagues who were there when dirt was invented. They look at these "new" concepts and then tell me the three or so versions of what came before and was essentially the same thing. They are used to working together with different groups ("stakeholders") and accross teams. They stress that none of the new methods are in fact new, and that the no-nonsense parts are in fact what should have been done in the earlier "methods" as well. Think about the goals, and then formulate a clear project. Continuous delivery just means that you can implement some stuff earlier and some stuff in the next version, and that you can react to new demands (e.g. rules and regulations) in mostly some very well defined spots and that you design it that way, not that you mill about because noone has a clue about what the end product should look like.

      Yes, there are the typical animosities and kindergartne sand box fights you have everywhere, but the job bloody well gets done (ok, not all of them, but that's due to... ok, I'll stop and have one of these


      as well...)

      I need the weekend.

    2. Adelio Silver badge

      Re: UnAgile

      I always wanted to understand what people wanted to achive and then check if i think the spec makes sense.

      Not always.

      A FIRM idea of what you are trying to achieve (at the start) is important. No pint building code for a water pump when you need code for a jet engine!

      1. CRConrad

        Man the pumps!

        No pint building code for a water pump when you need code for a jet engine!
        Well, seeing how a jet engine is basically just a very fast hot-air pump, maybe the plans just need to be adapted and re-scaled...

        Now could someone man the beer pump, please?

    3. Warm Braw Silver badge

      Re: UnAgile

      I took a look at Agile recently as lockdown boredom was taking hold and I was thinking about going back to work. I was actually quite taken aback - it's more of a cult than a process and I ended up feeling compelled to write about its fundamental misconception:

      It has is own language in which every word seems laden with meaning, though that meaning may not readily be apparent: at times I struggled to work out whether I was being encouraged to be a more productive developer or a higher level Operating Thetan. Curiously, the jargon seems to have been imported from, literally, another field – the sports field. Its sprints and scrums and team room are only a communal shower short of a Gillette commercial .

      It seems to me to be the precise opposite of a useful methodology: it takes a simple concept (which, regrettably, is the concept of a software development sweatshop, but we'll let that pass) and obfuscates it with allegorical mysticism. I can't see how it can possibly deliver anything of even modest complexity.

    4. Greybearded old scrote Silver badge

      Re: UnAgile

      Not liking docs is right there in the manifesto. "Working software over comprehensive documentation"

      If you're working with things that go bang or other people's money you'd better have correct behaviour bloody well documented.

      (I'm doing payroll code atm, to a spec of "whatever the old code does." I'm grinding my teeth so hard there's likely to be an explosion.)

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: UnAgile

        Not having documentation has interesting possibilities:

        "I'm not paying for that."

        "Why not?"

        "Show me where it meets the spec."

        "But we haven't got a spec."

        "Exactly. So it doesn't meet it. I'm not paying."

        1. CRConrad

          Could just as well go the other way around:

          – Now pay us!

          – Naah, don't wanna. Betcha it doesn't even meet the specs.

          – Show us where it fails the specs, or we'll sue you and then you'll have to pay us anyway, because you won't be able to show the court where it fails the specs... Because you didn't give us any specs.

      2. batfink Silver badge

        Re: UnAgile

        Yes that's the main troublesome bit with Agile. Too many times it's interpreted as "don't bother with documentation", although that's not what it actually says.

        So, all that does is store up problems, and we're going to come to the point where managers realise that this is going to cost money.

        Comprehensive documentation was invented back in the Good Old Days (yes, I was there), when those holding the budgets worked out they were paying people to spend time working out WTF had been done in the past from first principles and guesses about what the original developer was thinking at the time. They worked out that it was cheaper to accept the extra development time and cost to do it right in the first place, otherwise the TCO was going to blow out.

        Unfortunately that's now too long ago, and everyone's forgotten.

        1. Warm Braw Silver badge

          Re: UnAgile

          they were paying people to spend time working out WTF had been done in the past

          It's not just that, though that's certainly part of it. If you have a team of people working on a project, there has to be a shared understanding of what they're doing. They need to agree on a representation of the data. They need to know which bits of the system are performance-critical and be confident that they can meet the performance criteria. That needs to be recorded somewhere. "Black box" testing (which is the only thing you can do if you insist on writing your tests first) is not adequate in the general case. "Refactoring" is, in my view, a sign of failure - that the code was ill-considered in the first place.

          I can understand that if you're burning through your seed capital and need to deliver something to convince your backers to keep the taps open, it might be an acceptable approach. But only as long as you view the result as a prototype and not the finished article.

  5. Binraider

    No blaming software will ever making up for borked procurement practise. A supply chain of tens of thousands of employees leads to high unit cost. Keep it simple, keep it cheap

  6. Androgynous Cupboard Silver badge


    Lucky we didn't design an entire aircraft carrier so it could only fly this type of fighter

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: Phew!

      >we didn't design an entire aircraft carrier so it could only fly this type of fighter

      But then built a pair of aircraft carriers that couldn't actually fly this type of fighter

    2. WolfFan Silver badge

      Re: Phew!

      You didn’t design _an_ entire aircraft carrier. You designed _two_ entire aircraft carriers. And will be living with the decision for 30-40 years.

      Come, cheer up, me lads, for ‘tis to glory we steer…

      1. Androgynous Cupboard Silver badge

        Re: Phew!

        ... heart of oak are our ships, brains of oak are the MoD...

    3. codejunky Silver badge

      Re: Phew!

      @Androgynous Cupboard

      "Lucky we didn't design an entire aircraft carrier so it could only fly this type of fighter"

      The good news is we didnt. The design was to support a catapult system if we decided to do so. Except BAE claimed an outrageous price to make the modification (which would be done in the US for vastly less, so its all cream).

      None of this stuff is done sensibly until there is an actual threat of war.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    At least only costs $36,000 / hour to operate

    It's only tax payers money after all.

  8. Kev99

    Hey, let's reinvent the wheel using untested code and stick Uncle Sam with the costs. And be sure to put so much bloat in the code it will take years to find the buggy bits. Our training at the microsoft school of programming has really paid off.

  9. Chris G Silver badge

    "For over 20 years, we have consistently emphasized the need for organizations to collect and use data about program performance to help inform and measure organization operations and results."

    Why the hell would any pork barrel recipient pay any attention to such emphasis?

    It could lead to someone being answerable for lack of performance.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    At some point, somewhere along the line there would have been a standup that went...

    > Agile methodology has not succeeded in speeding up deliveries of onboard software for the F-35 fighter jet, a US government watchdog has warned in a new report.

    Scrum master (reporting-up the common issues found from sprint reviews): "Quite often, when we push something back a bit we find that dependencies mean we would end up doing something silly like delivering the take-off-mode software and finding that the landing-mode-software has now been delayed until after the first test flight. It's starting to eat up a lot of time as the devs check the dependencies. What if we produced and maintained a list of tasks and their dependencies so we could easily check?"

    PM: "You mean a plan?"

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: At some point, somewhere along the line there would have been a standup that went...

      where did you find such self-aware PMs?

    2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: At some point, somewhere along the line there would have been a standup that went...

      You've reminded me that Agile has a different meaning for "stand-up". For everyone else it means comedians.

      But then, they seem to have different meanings for a lot of things.

  11. six_tymes


    need I say more?

  12. sanmigueelbeer Silver badge

    the UK seems set to slash its order for 138 jets as defence chiefs start eyeing up domestically built unmanned aircraft instead

    Does UK DoD still have money left?

    Firstly, RN spent so much money on QE2 that it is unable to fund F35 numbers for QE2 that UK defense had to "rent out" deck space to the Americans.

    Now, the RAF is retiring C-130 early maybe to get funds to buy the uber-expensive "drones".

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Not quite true. The carriers ran a bit over budget, but not hugely, and both of them cost less than the price tag for holding the London Olympics.

      The F-35 fleet is shared between the RAF and the RN, and the figure of 138 was only ever a provisional one. The first operational deployment of HMS Queen Elizabeth will have a mix of RN and USMC aircraft, but this joint deployment has been planned for years.

      The RAF is to begin retiring its C-130 fleet, but it currently operates two other types of transport aircraft, the C-17 and the Airbus A400, the latter of which was designed to replace the C-130 anyway.

  13. ecofeco Silver badge


    Oink oink oink.

    In a barrel. By the trainload.

  14. J27 Silver badge

    Agile development methods only really work for things where it doesn't matter if some things break sometimes and you have constant analytics. Like a mobile app or web application. For a real-time system where any small failure kills someone? Madness. No wonder these things are such a disaster.

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

    2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Web application are also real time (for some value of time). Badly done there's a possibility of insecurities which could kill the business that uses them.

  15. Andrew Williams

    Agile as a brick

    Understand the problem domain. Understand the problem. Produce a design. Come up with a build plan, with tests and checks etc.

    Nah, duck it, let’s code something, anything and see what happens. That’s agile.

    Side note. The “agile crew” at work have burnt two months and produced nothing, while the designers are now looking at a successful product launch and follow on systems.

    1. Robert Grant Silver badge

      Re: Agile as a brick

      > The “agile crew” at work have burnt two months and produced nothing

      Get people who know something about agile if you want regular drops. If you aren't getting them, then no one's holding the "agile crew" to account for not even trying agile.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Agile as a brick

        A full working product beats regular drops.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Agile as a brick

          You mean "right first time"?


  16. Quinch

    Ah, "agile"

    "We don't have the time to do it right, but we always have the time to do it over."

    1. Sanguma Bronze badge

      Re: Ah, "agile"

      Speedy Gonzalez on a treadmill ...

  17. Sanguma Bronze badge

    wrong word?

    s/increment/excrement/g ?

  18. Mark192 Silver badge


    Guarantee that the cause of this is poor coding not being punished because it's quick, and good coding being punished because it /looks/ slow.

    Root cause? Non-coders managing coders, because management is the profession, right?

    My managers used to look 'key performance indicators' as if they were targets because they didn't have enough knowledge to evaluate the actual work.


    - People that should have been re-trained or sacked were lauded as high performers.

    - Big problems went unfixed because junior management were hounded by senior managers to get their team hitting the 'targets'. Work snowballed because short-termism ruled.

    1. uccsoundman

      Re: Non-coders?

      I worked in QA and the management metric was "number of test cases written" (not "number of requirements tested"). So the QA contractors wrote a script that auto-generated > 10,000 test cases, each testing exactly the same thing. They were RICHLY rewarded for far exceeding the production goals. Those who tried to write useful test cases were sacked for being too slow. Results: bad software.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    rm -Rf /

    No methodology is going to fix code coming from government contractors. The recruiters, the hiring managers, and the employees are incompetent at writing software. It's an endless cycle of incompetent software engineers interviewing incompetent job applicants and thinking they're OK. A PHP team literally told me that SQL injection can't be fixed or avoided because parameterized queries would conflict with approved coding standards. Any accidental hires of competent engineers will run for their lives once they see what their massive pool of coworkers have been doing for the past 10 years.

  20. jmch Silver badge

    Standard practice

    "developers "routinely underestimated the amount of work needed" "

    a) if you're developing something completely new or very cutting-edge, there's no way of even estimating how long it will take. Giving an estimate based on different work previously undertaken won't work

    b) In my experience, developers are routinely pressured by management to revise their estimates downwards. Management look more kindly on those who promise earlier delivery in an unrealistic timeframe than on those promising a later, but realistically timed delivery. When, for large projects, delivery times are measured in years, accountabilty for the original estimates quickly disappears (helped on by high turnover in project staff)

    c) Related to the above, lots of changes in project team members don't only screw with accountability, they screw with productivity. And you get frequent project team changes when management keeps outsourcing to lowest-bidder sweatshops.

    Without knowing any details and looking from outside, of course, but I would hazard to guess that the lateness and cost overruns have very little to do with use or not of Agile* methodology, and much more to do with attempted** cost-cutting.

    *of course there ARE issues with Agile methodology, mostly that very few dev teams that I've seen actually follow proper Agile process, and just stick bits of it here and there and call it 'Agile'

    **attempted since it looks nice in short-term but usually ends up costing more long-term

    1. Adelio Silver badge

      Re: Standard practice

      All said and done if you do not have a proper spec and plan of what you want at the beggining you are asking for trouble.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Standard practice

      Re: *of course there ARE issues with Agile methodology, mostly that very few dev teams that I've seen actually follow proper Agile process, and just stick bits of it here and there and call it 'Agile'


      My multinational company customises Agile by taking out the parts it doesn't agree with / like. Then trains everyone that their version is the real thing.

      And bastardizes it and calls it Business Agile.

      Then uses the Agile as buzzword bingo. After all, it just simply means fast, right?

  21. Blackjack Silver badge

    Meanwhile drones are slowly making these things obsolete. I fear the day we get drone delivered Little Boys and by that I meant atomic bombs.

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    You can't agile deliver, with sprints, on what are effectively safety critical systems.

    Having done safety critical platforms, they are designed to handle pretty much every eventuality, and are mathematically proven out on all of the outcomes.

  23. Locomotion69

    Not the solution.

    Agile development is not the solution to this IT problem as it is too complicated to be understood by the ordinary human being assigned to solve it.

    As, unfortunately, in most cases.

  24. MAF


    more like R2D2

    Ruminate Rubbish Don't Deliver

  25. Bitsminer Bronze badge

    I'm shocked, shocked, to find there is gambling going on here.

    developers "routinely underestimated the amount of work needed" to develop new software loads for the world's most expensive supersonic stealth fighter.


  26. CRConrad

    Good thing you used quote marks around "agile" in the headline.

    From the article:

    "The program's primary reliance on the contractor's monthly reports, often based on older data, has hindered program officials' timely decision making," said the GAO
    So not actually agile at all, then.

    Because if it were, the JPO would have had its people at the software contractor, participating in the work every day, in stead of relying on any damn monthly reports.

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