The F-35 program has been the target of a lot of criticism. Like, a lot.
The military aircraft, said to be the most lethal and connected fighter jet in the world, has been plagued by ballooning costs, delays and technical problems for years, and the F-35’s annual assessment by the Pentagon’s test center isn’t exactly giving its reputation a boost.
It’s being reported by Bloomberg that, while Robert Behler, the Defense Department’s director of operational test and evaluation, didn’t pinpoint any major problems in flying capability, he did stress there were many Category 1 — or “must-fix” — items to address before the project’s next phase.
The report identifies 873 software deficiencies, down from 917 in September of 2018. The low rate of progress is due to what sounds like a game of “whack-a-mole” — as problems are snuffed out, more continue to arise.
And software glitches are not the only thing here: the jet is said to have some cybersecurity vulnerabilities, and its Air Force version has a pretty serious gun problem: it doesn’t shoot straight. While the 25mm firearms on the Navy and Marine Corps versions are mounted externally and have passed muster, the Air Force gun is internally mounted. The test office reportedly “considers the accuracy, as installed, unacceptable” due to “misalignments” in the gun’s mount that didn’t meet specifications.
But one of the stranger things about this whole situation as that orders for the F-35 continue to pile up. The U.S. is accelerating purchases this year – 20 in this fiscal versus 15 last year – and foreign countries like Japan, Australia and the U.K. all count themselves as customers.
According to Time, a spokesperson for the F-35 program office had no comment on the latest report from the testing office.