back to article Software troubles delay F-35 fighter jet deliveries ... again

Deliveries of Lockheed Martin's F-35 fighter jets to the US military are being delayed again and despite all the metal, software is the culprit.  Lockheed held its fourth quarter earnings call yesterday, with president and CEO Jim Taiclet blaming the delays on software associated with Technology Refresh 3 (TR-3), a key …

  1. elsergiovolador Silver badge

    Billions

    Where those billions go?

    1. Throatwarbler Mangrove Silver badge
      Holmes

      Re: Billions

      Into the pockets of Lockheed Martin. Duh.

      Note to self: buy Lockheed stock.

      1. blackcat Silver badge

        Re: Billions

        Its as if Lockheed has created its own revolving door system for the F35 where it will forever be 'being upgraded'.

        1. Robert 22

          Re: Billions

          As defense systems have become more coplex and expensive, governments have been forced to abandon traditional procurement approaches, such as developing competing designs to the point where they can be tested and evaluated. But by selecting and relying on one proposal, they leave themselves without any fall-back choices and can only move forward in the hope that things will get sorted out. And the vendors know this - one implication being that having a successful paper proposal is more important than actually being able to deliver on their promises. In fact, as long as things don't get to the point where they are obviously hopeless, the vendor stands to benefit from poor performance.

          1. blackcat Silver badge

            Re: Billions

            "as long as things don't get to the point where they are obviously hopeless"

            Sometimes seems that things do get that far!

            I agree that the cost of building such planes and other large bits of military hardware is far beyond the scale where a company could build a couple of prototypes on the hope they will get picked. If you go back to the power WW2 era the various US and even UK aircraft manufacturers were turning out planes without any pre-orders.

            Having worked on DoD projects I always got the feeling that the specs were made by the higher ups with little or no input from those who would actually be using the thing. The new US air tanker is a classic where the refuelling boom operator has to work via a camera rather than a window and the camera is B&W, can't cope with glare, has a poor dynamic range, poor depth perception (it is 3D with a set of special goggles to view the screen) and generally rather crap. Thankfully the cost of replacement with a better colour system is being taken on by the supplier and not the US govt. You'd think this would be a system they'd test endlessly on an older tanker before building the new ones.

        2. Sanguma

          Re: Billions

          The USN's lost what balls it had back in the day, when it took over Brewster Aeronautical Corps

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

          and shuttered it in the end.

          But of course, if the USN were to take over Lockheed-(whatever), it'd face a massive turf fight with the USM and the USAF over how to best mismanage the manufacturer, in a manner befitting the current best practices mismanagement guide/s Lockheed is currently using.

          1. CGBS

            Re: Billions

            How exactly did the Navy lose its balls? Naturally the Navy was responsible for the company closing by being forced to take over for the last two years. Obviously the decade prior to that point had no bearing on anything.

    2. jgarbo
      Facepalm

      Re: Billions

      First to Lockheed for divs and exec bonuses, then "donations" to its politicians' PACs for the next elections to hand out more MIC contracts for more Lockheed profits...rinse & repeat. The rabble are dazzled by this magical disappearance of their tax money.

    3. HammerOn1024

      Re: Billions

      Into the several MILLION lines of code needed to run this thing as well as the FQT to verify and validate the functionality. It wouldn't do to have the SW crash like a typical Windows/Linux/Android application now would it?

      And for all the other whiners... these vehicles will be around and doing their job for over 50 years... how old is your car?

      1. ComicalEngineer

        Re: Billions

        One of my cars is 35 years old and requires little more than an annual service plus consumables [brakes,tyres etc]. Mk2 Golf GTI. I expect it will see me out even with me using it regularly.

        One of my other cars is a 17 year old MX5 [Miata to US readers]. The 9 year old battery died last week. Other than that it continues to run happily.

        No car on the planet gets the TLC that any aircraft gets in its' lifetime [with the exception of F!, NASCAR etc] , and I can tell you from experience that an F-35 gets an incredible amount of maintenance for each flying hour.

      2. CGBS

        Re: Billions

        It's good to see that both sides of the problem are represented in the forums. The ones that think it's a total failure despite the fact that 1,000 of them have already been made and frankly, if there is a better option, people should buy that and then the defense industry simps. Fair and balanced.

  2. beast666

    They should buy Su-57s instead.

    1. IGotOut Silver badge

      The ones Russia is to scared to use anywhere near Ukraine in case they get shot down?

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        But presumably Ukraine wouldn't shoot down American Su-57s ?

      2. jgarbo

        Already seen action in Syria chasing away "invisible" F22s and in Ukraine killing off the last of their air force. Find real news, not CNN.

        1. ChoHag Silver badge

          The last of their air force? What air force? The non-existent air force that we refuse to help replenish despite blood promises to do so that they're using to wipe the floor with Russia anyway?

          1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

            What air force? The non-existent air force that we refuse to help replenish despite blood promises to do so that they're using to wipe the floor with Russia anyway?

            By the end of the first year of the war, Ukraine's air force as considerably bigger than what they started the war with. Mostly with lots of spare parts, and quite a few spare jets, from Eastern Europe. That allowed Ukraine to re-activate some of their own old jets, as well as keep others going - and then there were a decent number of, I think, Polish and Slovak ones as well.

            What we didn't do, was plan for a long war. That Ukraine would have to transition away from any complex kit that needs spares or ammo provided by Russia. It's easy enough to make Russian calibre 152mm artillery shells - but not so easy to get reloads for S300 surface-to-air missile systems or air-to-air missiles compatible with old Soviet fighters.

            There's been a lot "MacGyver-ing" going on though. Storm Shadow cruise missiles and HARM anti-radar missiles onto the SU24. But only the older stuff, without the modern ability to transmit mid-course guidance and target changes.

            Given some of Ukraine's recent successes - I do wonder if we've bodged some decent long-range air-to-air solution? Or have they just sneaked Patriot batteries right up to the front lines, for a brief few long-range kills, before moving them back to safety again?

            There's also a Franken-SAM project, to get Western missiles onto the old Soviet launchers Ukraine has. Because NATO is mostly pretty poorly provided with SAMs - relying on getting air superiority instead. So the US have managed to get Sea Sparrow onto Ukrainian Buk mobile short range SAM launchers. The UK have built a mobile launcher from scratch to fire ASRAAM - and US are doing something similar with Sidewinder - so a radar launcher truck firing an air-launched infra-red missile.

            F-16 is on the way now. Too late, like everything else. But I don't think the politicians were really wanting to believe in a years long war. Bit like the start really, where most people refused to believe Russia would do something so stupid, and so disbelieved US and UK warnings - despite the massive (and un-precendented) mobilisation of Russian forces. Similarly I just don't think politicians could believe that Russia would do something as stupid as to keep the war going for two years, when it was clear from week 4 that they'd already lost.

        2. Robert 22

          The Russians haven't been able to obtain air superiority over the actual battlefield, despite having more and newer aircraft.

    2. jgarbo

      Yep. Su57s almost fly themselves after take off, leaving the pilot to hunt Nazis, with the help of their little drone that scouts ahead. They've proved themselves in Ukraine, taking out most of the Nazi air force. Now waiting for early breakfast: F16s...

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        идиотская шлюха

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Nazis

        Oh you mean Putlers lot, the Ruzzians.

        Vladolf Putler is a nazi

    3. Harald

      The same Su-57 Russia offered to India?

      The same Su-57 India rejected, quoting that stealth is a joke and everything else is just repackaged, 30-years old Su-37?

  3. t245t Silver badge
    Terminator

    Are you out of your frickin' mind, Dave?

    TR-3 software is a major part of "Block 4" code block designed to make the aircraft continually upgradable

    Dave to F-35: Activate afterburner and climb to 50,000 ft at an angle of 76 degrees.

    F-35 to Dave: Certainly Dave, do you have the original installation CD handy?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Are you out of your frickin' mind, Dave?

      You are Pierre Sprey and I claim my five pounds

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: Are you out of your frickin' mind, Dave?

        Installing updates....please wait...

        Your F35 may restart several times, do not turn off

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Are you out of your frickin' mind, Dave?

          Wouldn't it be "do not burn off"?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Are you out of your frickin' mind, Dave?

      And the CD drive doesn't work anyway at that angle, it is validated for only +/- 5° from the horizontal line, for altitudes up to 50 cm.

      1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

        Re: Are you out of your frickin' mind, Dave?

        No problem. Updates are loaded from floppies.

        Insert disc 369 of 1,064 and press any key.

        1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

          Re: Are you out of your frickin' mind, Dave?

          Insert disc 369 of 1,064 and press any key

          Assuming that you bought the "any key" option anyway. If not, please insert your credit card.

  4. Sparkus

    The F-35 engine

    known as the F135, is already maxed out for the cooling and power it can deliver to the jet. Block IV might be undeployable without an improved version of the engine and enhanced cooling systems.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: The F-35 engine

      F35 gamer mode with RGB engine fans

    2. An_Old_Dog Silver badge

      Re: The F-35 engine

      Oh, they can deploy Block IV with the jets as they currently are. But to avoid "anomalous results", pilots of those jets may need to turn off the cockpit air-conditioning before they turn on the targeting computer. (*snerk*)

    3. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Re: The F-35 engine

      I thought they'd already released the engine upgrades, last year. Although it's actually an upgrade to the engines electrical generators.

      There's also a plan to upgrade the engines in future, but that's a different thing. To both give more whoosh and more electrical power.

      Modern Western planners seem to be wanting to add huge amounts of power generation to both their ships and aircraft. Partly in hopes of future laser weapons. But also because modern radars can also be used for offensive electronic warfare. Which is horribly power-hungry. Plus if electronic warfare is more prevalent, you need more power to your radars to burn through it.

      The problem is that the older the aircraft, the more of these upgrades you're going to have to retrofit to get up to Block 4, hence the more expensive.

      1. ciaran
        Angel

        Re: The F-35 engine

        I love the way they put hi-viz radars on stealth airplanes.

        1. CGBS

          Re: The F-35 engine

          You're thinking of an AM radio broadcast antenna. These aircraft don't use that. Easy to confuse. And to save you the typing, just because it has Active in the name, doesn't mean that it's a sonar ping that everyone can detect and get a fix on. That's kinda the point. A short extremely directional scan here, another one on a different frequency there (all of the components able to do something different all at once) and it's stupidly hard to detect or even understand what you are seeing if you do. There are also other advantages that if put to use means that somehow the stealth factor has already been obviated so turn it all the way up and start cooking things.

    4. MJI Silver badge

      Re: The F-35 engine

      Pity F136 was cancelled

  5. Sceptic Tank Silver badge
    Pirate

    Magnificent men in flying machine

    Don't the Chinese already have working software on their version of the F-35?

    1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Re: Magnificent men in flying machine

      It's impossible to know. They're not telling, because they have no democratic oversight.

      I've seen suggestions that their engines are incredibly under-powered - but again, it's hard to know because the people in the West who might know aren't telling. And that's assuming they do know.

      However it idiotic to assume that if they want to create systems this complicated they won't also have these kinds of problems. So if they're not having software problems, it's probably because their software is pretty basic and not capable of all the shiny things F-35 can do when it's working properly.

      Clearly the F-35 software is a mares nest though. It clearly needs to be more modular, so it can be upgraded in little bits, rather than massive upgrades of everything all at once. Hopefully a lesson that can be slowly retro-fitted to F-35 and kept in mind with new programs like GCAP.

      If you look at the "spiral development" model in missiles that the European defence industry has got going now, it's deeply impressive. With continuous, incremental upgrades to systems that are also cheaper becausue they often have common parts. It's also often true of Navies. We need some of this in our aircraft industry. The days of an aircraft being scrapped after 15 years are long gone, and types seem to hang around for decades now. There are B-52s built in the early 70s (when I was also built) that are planned to still be flying in the 2070s - after I've been scrapped... Rolls Royce are building them new engines at the moment. They'll probably be on their umpteenth set of avionics and electronics already.

      1. Wellyboot Silver badge

        Re: Magnificent men in flying machine

        The big problem with F35 is that it was planned to replace both mainstream jets as well as niche specialist roles and supply state of the art stealth in a single type in large numbers to offset multiple sets of development costs (political meddling anyone). Unfortunately the only useful mission overlap between the older aircraft is that they drop bombs, The A10/F16/F117 fly home to nice big airfield (USAF), the F18/A6 fly home to a carrier (USN & USMC) and Harriers fly home to where the USMC have built a temporary airfield behind the front line (mud marines really like having Harrier support nearby, the A10 can also operate from roads but the USAF like their comfort).

        It comes as no real surprise to many aircraft engineering types that the F35 being (mostly) superior to all older types actually needs two different sets of wings and two different fuselage designs to do this. The Navy model (F35C) has much bigger wings to allow carrier operations and the VSTOL (F35B) has a completely different fuselage (both compared to the F35A Air force version), but they are all the same from the pilot forward and share avionics.

        The upshot is that the Swiss army knife of aircraft will cost far more overall & take longer to develop than the set of assorted blades it’s meant to replace.

        1. P.B. Lecavalier

          Re: Magnificent men in flying machine

          They designed three variants, for three different branches, claiming SYNERGIES. Last I heard about 30% of components are common to all three. The design of the plane is a long list of compromises. As in let's compromise the mission!

      2. martinusher Silver badge

        Re: Magnificent men in flying machine

        >They're not telling, because they have no democratic oversight.

        Like all advanced weapon systems the details (good and bad) are secret. So even with our 'democratic oversight' -- aka "Congressional committees sniping at contractors because of cost overruns" the real details are only going to be known to a carefully vetted set of insiders.

        I don't know where the money goes but given that massive cost overruns and schedule slips are the norm, not the exception, I'd guess its just business as usual. But since these planes are primarily going to be used to attack weaker neighbors, preferably ones who can't easily shoot back (or retaliate), then their actual performance isn't that important.

  6. PhilipN Silver badge

    "continually upgradable"

    What could possibly go wrong?

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

    2. An_Old_Dog Silver badge

      Re: "continually upgradable"

      1. Pilot encounters an enemy jet, turns on his radar and targeting computer, then locks-on to the enemy aircraft.

      2. Pilot presses the trigger. Nothing seems to happen. Pilot frantically re-tries triggering, faster and faster. No useful result.

      3. "Master Caution" light comes on.

      4. Pilot acknowledges the alarm.

      5. An on-screen pop-up appears: "Updating Java. Please wait."

      6. Another on-screen pop-up appears: "Please connect to the Internet."

      1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge
        Trollface

        Re: "continually upgradable"

        Don't forget the pop-up to download Google Chrome along with your fresh install of Java...

        1. MacroRodent

          Re: "continually upgradable"

          Read somewhere - probably here in The Register - that it is a C++ project. Explains things...

      2. Sudosu Bronze badge

        Re: "continually upgradable"

        We see you have pressed "trigger" multiple times, would you like to enable sticky keys?

  7. Locomotion69

    A good example

    of a solution to a problem, where the solution became too complicated to comprehend.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I can solve it.

    They should just get Paula Vennells and Fujitsu in, then any glitches would be pilot error.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I can solve it.

      Fushitsu doesn't ever make a pilot but moves everything straight to prod...

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Once Upon A Time At Hawker-Siddley...............

    2016.....that would be 8 years ago......https://www.pogo.org/investigations/f-35-may-never-be-ready-for-combat

    ......and the beat goes on...............

    The supersonic jump jet developed by Hawker (P1164) was cancelled in 1964. The subsonic Hawker Harrier was a success from 1967 till around 2010.

    In 2024 the F35 is costing the best part of a billion pounds a pop......and it doesn't work!

    Sigh......your government pound sterling at work.......Brits knew how to do this is 1964......and sixty years later we spend billions in the USA for something that does not work!

    1. NXM Silver badge

      Re: Once Upon A Time At Hawker-Siddley...............

      I saw a Harrier at an air show when I was a kid, and it was the most phenomenally loud thing I'd ever heard before or since. Including a steel rolling mill.

      Probably why I've got tinnitus (either that or the Hawkwind gig I went to in 1985).

      1. Wellyboot Silver badge

        Re: Once Upon A Time At Hawker-Siddley...............

        Harrier - phenomenally loud - yes the Pegasus motor is very impressive, I've not been in a rolling mill but I used to live a few miles from one many moons ago and heard the occasional loud bang.

        Loudest I’ve experienced was standing 100 metres from Starfighters as they left the tarmac in formation, I could feel my internal organs vibrating in sympathy with the ground, there were four of them in full afterburner!

        1. Sudosu Bronze badge

          Re: Once Upon A Time At Hawker-Siddley...............

          The Starfighters were fairly loud, the Voodoos on the other hand, were somewhere in the league of sitting near the speakers at a Led Zeppelin concert.

    2. Throatwarbler Mangrove Silver badge
      Meh

      Re: Once Upon A Time At Hawker-Siddley...............

      In fairness to the F-35 (ugh, I can't believe I typed that), the requirements heaped upon it are somewhat mind-boggling and recall the spoof MoD document calling for flying unicorns in Charles Stross's novela "Equoid." The F-35 is required to have variants which:

      * Can provide air interception

      * Can provide close air support

      * Can land on aircraft carriers

      * Have STOVL capability

      * Are stealthy

      * Are supersonic

      * Have super advanced avionics and flight control systems

      * Have giant fairy wings and embody the magic of friendship (okay, this one I made up)

      * Etc.

      The whole project is a boondoggle, and someone should have strangled it in the crib or at least had the good sense to remove some of the more ridiculous requirements (stealth and CAS being an unnecessary combination of capabilities, for example), but here we are.

      1. TheSirFin

        Re: Once Upon A Time At Hawker-Siddley...............

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aXQ2lO3ieBA

        you mean like the Bradley Fighting Tank?

    3. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Re: Once Upon A Time At Hawker-Siddley...............

      In 2024 the F35 is costing the best part of a billion pounds a pop.

      No it isn't. F-35As are down to somewhere below $80m each nowadays. That's less than a Typhoon and similar money (or less than) a SAAB Gripen.

      Now the F-35 has massively higher maintenance costs, and is still a new system - so if you buy one this year, you'll need to fork out to upgrade the computers and the software to Block 4. And if you bought one before last year, you also need to fork out for upgrades to the electrical generators in the engines and various other bits.

      But they're also stealthy and have massive advantages in "sensor fusion" and communications and intelligence gathering. Which is why they're probably best used in a mix with other aircraft.

      Everything's secret. So it's impossible to know how good they really are. However F-35 has won all the recent competitions against F/A-18 Super-Hornet, Typhoon, Rafale and Gripen. That ought to say quite a lot. The only countries who could afford it that haven't bought it, either weren't allowed to or were making rival products. Even there, Germany, Italy and the UK have bought a mix of Eurofighter and F-35.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Once Upon A Time At Hawker-Siddley...............

        They are so stealthy that nobody ever saw an English pilot take of from an English ship with a F-35

        1. Peter2 Silver badge

          Re: Once Upon A Time At Hawker-Siddley...............

          Presumably because England doesn't have any planes or ships?

          Britain has both. And two squadrons of operational F35's, capable of flying off of both of our aircraft carriers.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Once Upon A Time At Hawker-Siddley...............

        @I_ain't_Spartacus

        https://www.aerotime.aero/articles/27553-top-10-most-expensive-fighter-jets

        ....says $177 million....

        The $80 million figure is for the plain vanilla version. The ones on the QE carrier are the F-35B jump jets.......

        Then there's the implications of "Recommendation #5" from GAO-23-106047 a report published on May 30, 2023:

        "The Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment should ensure the F-35 program obtains

        an independent cost estimate for all engine and thermal management modernization options, including

        integration and any necessary related aircraft upgrade costs, to inform the military services'

        modernization decisions."

        Note "independet cost estimate" and "necessary related aircraft upgrade costs".......

        So let's stick with say half a billion dollars a pop...............

  10. NXM Silver badge

    "upgrades"

    Will it put a pop-up on the display every now & again telling you to buy the new F365 Office Suite?

    1. Sanguma

      Re: "upgrades"

      Nah, more sophisticated that that. It will have a pop-up display offering hotel suites with an ensuite for the master bedroom in the priciest hotel in London Town (The Tower); it'll even allow you to stay if you've stolen your Dad's credit card and are running up a massive bill enjoying Christmas all on your own in New York while your family swelters in Florida.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Canada

    Should have went with the SAAB Gripen (or maybe an F16 variant) for what we do....mostly volume bombing once the US has cleared the airspace.

  12. HandleBaz

    Lockmart Shilling

    For real though, anyone who's paid more than surface attention to the F-35 program has to realize that it's fantastic value.

    Sure, it's fun to break out the total lifetime program cost, and divide it by number of airframes and pretend each airframe costs that.

    But if you get the F-35A variant, you're talking Gripen money. And nobody sane would trade their F-35 for a Gripen.

  13. MJI Silver badge

    Huge mistake buying them

    We should have done our own route with Harrier replacement rather than these dodgy bits of kit.

    The more I read, the more I see it was a huge mistake.

    RN sailors are not allowed to go near them at sea due to potentially seeing US secrets it seems.

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