The Pentagon's New List Of F-35 Bugs Is Predictably Awful

The Pentagon's New List of F-35 Bugs Is Predictably Awful

The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program is the most expensive military program in the world, so it should be no surprise that the F-35 aircrafts are loaded with powerful weapons controlled by powerful computers. Unfortunately, the guns don't fire yet, and the computers still don't work right.

A Pentagon official released a damning report on Monday detailing a stunning number of deficiencies that still plague the troubled F-35 fighter jet. The report is particularly important because the Air Force is supposed to announce that its version of the aircraft will be operational by the end of the year. However, the new Pentagon report clearly states that the aircraft should not be flown in 2017 given the number of bugs that need to be fixed.

The document lays out dozens of problems facing the F-35 in all variants of the aircraft, many of which are caused by software failures. This is especially troubling because the F-35 relies on special computers to keep both the aircraft and its weapons operational. Computers actually control just about every component on the new jet, and that's actually become the F-35's greatest weakness.

One group of bugs reported is particular to the variant of the F-35 that the Marines are using. The bugs are found "in fusion, electronic warfare, and weapons employment result in ambiguous threat displays, limited ability to respond to threats, and a requirement for off-board sources to provide accurate coordinates for precision attack." The bug essentially renders the F-35 useless.

Another critical flaw is that the aircraft is difficult to maintain and update. In 2014, a famous 60 Minutes segment documented how the internal diagnostic systems on the plane failed to accurately track the heath the key components in the vehicle. The new report claims that the "Each new version of software, while adding some new capability, failed to resolve all the deficiencies identified in earlier releases." (Emphasis ours.)

The Pentagon's New List of F-35 Bugs Is Predictably Awful

Other bugs included the fact that the F-35 doesn't know whether it's using new or old parts. The aircraft's computer "incorrectly authorizes older/inappropriate replacement parts" according to the document. The fighter jet also doesn't know when it's moving too quickly: "The Integrated Exceedance Management System, designed to assess and report whether the aircraft exceeded limitations during flight, failed to function properly." So that sounds pretty bad, too.

Perhaps the worst of all the bugs is the fact that the F-35 will likely kill you if you try to eject from it. "Recent discoveries that require design changes, modifications, and regression testing include the ejection seat for safe separation, wing fuel tank over‑pressurization, and the life-limitations of the F-35B bulkhead. For these specific reasons and others, further program delays are likely."

What was supposed to be a futuristic aircraft built for stealth combat and surveillance has famously turned into a huge money pit, but it's beyond embarrassing at this point. Back in 2012, the Pentagon slammed Lockheed Martin on the performance of the new age fighter jet, vowing not to bail the program out if Lockheed couldn't work out the bugs in its new aircraft. Sadly, not much progress has been made since then.

Whether or not the aircrafts will ever be used in combat remains to be seen, but it's safe to say that other nations' governments will think twice before making any block purchases of the aircraft. For now, we can at least appreciate the ambition of the program and also every coolmoment we've seen as the F-35 has readied for combat. As Air Force Lt. Gen. Christopher C. Bogdan said four years ago, "I don't see any scenario where we're walking back away from this program." It's just a damn shame that he and the rest of the top brass are wasting a trillion taxpayer dollars in standing by the damn thing.

[Defence One]

Image via AP

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    Doesn't the US have lemon laws? They should just get a refund :)
    Sounds like the F35 is the Ducati of fighter jets.

    "Unfortunately, the guns don’t fire yet" but the second photo in the article shows the gun being test fired. That pretty much sums up the bias and quality of reporting on JSF on this site.

      It's been fired once, in a single test. It'll be fired again *some time this year*.

        Incorrect.. The -25 has been tested in the F35 in the air and on the ground... Has performed simulated gun runs at RF15 and is approx 2 months into airbourne software testing for acquisition & targeting on the -25

        You'll also find that they're about a week away from doing OH testing on the sequencing initiator that lines each round and clears for firing... That will have the barrels still operating at over 1300f and firing hundreds if not thousands of rounds

      "That pretty much sums up the bias and quality of reporting on JSF on this site"
      I think your comment says more about your bias though.

    Good Lord and I bet that our Govt will ignore all these problems and yell out "Just Take My Money already". Do we all have to bend over for this or just the govt? Wait, I think I know :(

    Last edited 04/02/16 12:56 pm

    those test pilots better have extra life insurance...

    Hand it over to the Germans, I'm sure they will make it right. Or why not upload the software from China's copycat jet :D Even if it was copied, and potentially crap, it would probably be better.

      It's exactly what we did with F-111 and it turned out very well for everyone.

      I thought the Chinese copy was of the F-22. Either way, they probably have a copy of it and have already fixed the issues.

      Nooo the Germans will just make it look like its working via the software. Then it will come out later on that they were cheating the tests and everyone will be stuck with a devalued lemon.

    This is all the same sensationalist garbage they threw at the F-111, and look how that turned out. When you are pushing new boundaries, you have to expect it to take a while to get everything right. Most of the problems mentioned are anything but serious. e.g. Why do you need a system to monitor the aircraft's "exceedence" (not a real word) of limitations? Isn't that what the pilot is for? Ditto for authorising parts - isn't there a workshop manager to oversee those things?

      I'm assuming the limitations thing is relating to the fact that the plane is fly by wire. So there's no actual connection between the pilot and the flaps when they make adjustments. The weak point of a plane is now the pilot as they can perform much higher G maneuvers than the pilot can withstand. Hence, they could make a turn that actually causes the pilot to lose consciousness as a result of the number of Gs they're receiving. The computer would interpret the input from the pilot and determine whether this is going to happen.

      For the parts, as this is a national security issue, they are probably protecting against someone sabotaging the plane. But mostly likely it's just because people are dumb and sometimes make bad decisions.

      Glad to see we have an expert on the case here. Where would we be if we didn't have people like you, who are clearly better qualified on these technical issues. Thanks Mate

        Right, because 100% of everybody agrees that the F-35 is a disaster, right? Oh, wait, most specialist media consider it the most advanced aircraft in the world and a combat aircraft without peer, like this one -
        The USAF and Marine Corps are also happy enough with the progress of the project that they are happy to authorise it for deployment to active squadrons in the coming months.

          Completely agree, look at any project that was ahead of its time engineering or otherwise and they are always difficult to get off the ground (pardon the pun) and push through to completion. The F111 was a good example and so was the Brooklyn Bridge. There is no shortage of F35 haters out there but apparently there is a huge shortage of other aircraft where the goddamn pilot can see through their own plane!!! It is unbeaten in stealth, unbeaten in sensors and surveillance (software integration issues aside these bugs will obviously be worked out eventually). People whine that it has only got one engine but that was never a problem for the highly successful F16. The F35 its going to own the shit out of basically everything. Give it a little time.
          Also I didn't know about the Storm Shadow until I read that article you posted - but it appears integration of storm shadow with the F-35 has now been dropped to be replaced with SPEAR instead ( Either way, all your long range destruction are ours! And you'll never see it coming.

      The F-111's not a bad comparison actually. Kind of compromised design which the US overpromised on and then couldn't actually deliver what they said they would. The carrier version got canned. The K variant for the UK that they cancelled their (arguably superior) TSR-2 project for got canned. The Australian C variant took a decade to actually be accepted and the cost nearly doubled. They ended up fine though.

      Big difference is that when Australia decided to buy them, the US actually had working prototypes to show. Australia didn't fund their development.

      Last edited 04/02/16 3:47 pm

        Australia contributed something like $100million to a trillion dollar programme, that's a loooooooooooooong way from "funding it".

          I meant they put money into it based on the promise of what it should deliver before they'd even selected which aircraft of the two JSF prototypes would be the one they decided on. When Australia ordered the F-111 it was a real aircraft that they could inspect and knew roughly what they'd get.

        Side by side cockpit configuration was less than ideal. Ejection pod was pretty cool. Supersonic low altitude flight with terrain following radar on the other hand....BOOOOM - "what the f^&k was that?" - too late you are already dead.

          Oh and I forgot to mention dump and burn! Good for nothing but airshows but still excellent value for money if you ask me...did F111's ever use dump and burn in combat as part of show of force maneuvers??? Anyone?

            The F-111 dump and burn always looked rad but it was never useful. It's actually a design flaw of the aircraft. They put the fuel dump nozzles right at the tail so a quick burst of afterburner would ignite it.

            It was used once in a real situation though. US pilots returning from a covert strike in Libya in the 1980s were unable to find the fuel tankers in the dark and couldn't break radio silence to locate them so used a quick dump & burn to light up the sky so they could find the tankers.

            The only other burning fuel thing I know of is that the SR-71 would leak fuel and on quick takeoff would sometimes ignite the trails of fuel when it pulled up off the ground, leaving two burning trails behind it on the runway. Not as impressive as a F-111 dump and burn, but the SR-71 is a vastly cooler aircraft to begin with.

              Back to the Future style!!! SR-71 was definitely cool.
              Hope you've read this:

      I dunno I think the ejection seat likely killing the pilot I would find a bit disconcerting if I was in the driver's seat.

    Department of Defense Defense Force in full effect today it seems.

    ....and it's stealth technology is so old hat, that modern air defence radar has long since surpassed the point where it can track all of the US's "stealth" aircraft.
    ....and it's computer systems are not "powerful" but based on decade old processor technology. My galaxy note 5 has more power and sophistication, and my loverly google pixel c tablet is probably a 1000x more powerful.
    If ever there was an aircraft system that the rest of the world should walk away from, it's the F35.

      That's just specious. If you consider the cost of the total F35 - system and the computing power is as weak as you say how easy and cheap would it be to upgrade to the latest processors? How much power do you need seriously? I realise the aircraft runs more than 8 million lines of code but in terms of todays computing that really isn't a lot. The computer I am writing this post on can process 10's of millions of operations a second and I bought it for a grand. That includes a graphics card that takes away a lot of the processing work required to display everything required in the F35's full glass cockpit. TL:DR? - You are making a mountain out of a molehill.

    And we talked into buying this lemon by.... ??

    The thing that bothers me is that their still getting paid.
    Normally a deal is done to supply a product for x dollars (like a house). You wait a while, then receive the product. If there's delays you wait BUT YOU DON'T PAY MORE.
    What is Northrop/whoevers motivation to deliver? They get paid as long as they're "working" on it.

      Maybe because if you hike a certain distance and get into trouble you have to walk a smaller distance to continue to the end than you do if you turn around and go back to the start?

    This article was written by a mentally crippled 12 year old.

    You wrote;

    “The Integrated Exceedance Management System, designed to assess and report whether the aircraft exceeded limitations during flight, failed to function properly.” So that sounds pretty bad, too."

    Extract a quote, which you don't understand, from a report, which you don't understand either, and draw the earth-shattering inference that "...that sounds pretty bad.."

    You're a moron Michael Nunez, and so is the sub that allowed this tripe to be published. Michael, your talents clearly belong elsewhere, over at ninemsn's 'Pickle' site perhaps, where you can gush over the latest viral cat video.

      At least he qualified it as a personal opinion.

      The day that journalists are experts in everything, will be the day hell freezes over.

    Should have bought F-15 Silent Eagles. Faster, long range, heavier weapons load, and based on a proven air frame with tens of thousands of flight hours. Oh and it can fly and land with half a wing shot off.

      Air frame not as stealthy though. And no VTOL/STOL version. Does have a spare engine mind you. Not that it matters that much as proven by the F16. America doesn't have to worry as they have both. And in Australia there is still the possibility of similar upgrade kits for the also proven FA18. So....meh. Besides - rich countries don't go to war anymore...we have financial wars....these aircraft are just for bombing poor countries and putting on cool airshows.

    If I was in charge of this whole F-35 program, rather than designing a whole new aircraft from scratch and costing tax payers million and possibly billions of dollars.

    I would take the already successful F-15 Falcon fighter jet and look for ways to improve or make it even better, even if it needs to be re-designed in some ways to accommodate the new technology.

    Meanwhile in Russia and China....... They are building new generations of fighters that will probably destroy the F35 in single combat.

    I don't care what the US Military or anyone else says, if your fighter relies solely on it's stealth and long-range capabilities to stay alive, it won't. Not unless it has stealth camo, now THAT would be cool, and something worth investing trillions in.

    To think Australia signed up to 17 billion dollars worth of these flying lemons. What a joke. They should sign up for the Sukhoi PAK FA instead .

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