LONDON— executives say there are no “showstoppers” in the Pentagon’s Director of Operational Test & Evaluation ( &E) report on the Joint Strike Fighter.
“All the issues raised in the report are known, and have been known for some time, and fixes and solutions are in place or in work,” Steve O’Bryan, Lockheed Martin’s vice president ofbusiness development, told Aviation Week in London.
O’Bryan’s comments come just weeks after negative reports on the aircraft’s performance and the grounding of the short-takeoff-vertical-landing (Stovl) F-35B variant in late January due to faulty fueldraulic lines.
“I look at the DOT&E report and I look at the progress, and we are 5% ahead of the plan,” O’Bryan says.
Some test points have been delayed, however, while fixes are devised. Among them is a new tailhook design for the F-35C after the original design was unable to grab the arresting wire. The company is also behind in delivering software to allow for use of weapons on the F-35.
“What I see is a very flexible flight test program that is able to pull ahead test points that were to be further out and can be pulled into the plan,” O’Bryan says.
O’Bryan spoke in London as part of a European tour of JSF partner nations, along with Tom Burbage, retiring VP and general manager of the F-35 program. The pair highlighted the company’s plans for 2013 as it pushes to get the aircraft into service. The plan includes 1,153 test flights during 2013 and completing 9,300 test points by year’s end.
Lockheed also plans to deliver 36 low-rate, initial-production aircraft in fiscal 2013 — an increase of 20% over last year. Other milestones include the beginning of U.S. Air Force pilot training at Eglin AFB, Fla., as well as the delivery of LRIP 4 aircraft to Nellis AFB, Nev., and Edwards AFB, Calif., for operational testing by the Air Force.
Through-life durability testing on both the STOVL (F-35B) and the CV (F-35C) models will also be completed later this year. F-35Bs are also expected to be re-embarked on the USS Wasp amphibious assault vessel for a second round of deck operation trials following initial trials held in October 2011. The company will also mark the opening of the Italian Final Assembly and Check-Out (FACO) facility at Cameri AB near Milan in conjunction with the Italian government this summer.
Without further software snags, the operational fleet aircraft at Eglin and Yuma are slated to receive the 2A software in the third quarter of this year. The operational fleet is currently using release Block 1B, dubbed the “Initial Training” software, which gives crews basic radar modes and flight envelope capability. The Block 2A release is made of more than 8 million lines of code and represents around 86% of the ultimate extent of the aircraft’s software.
According to O’Bryan, the Block 2A software will bring new training capabilities including access to electronic warfare systems, air-to-air and air-to-ground modes for the AN/APG-81 radar as well as use of Electro-Optical Targeting System (EOTS), the Infrared Search and Track (IRST) and some of the “classified systems.”
The release will also include simulated weaponry such as laser-guided Joint Direct Attack Munitions and AIM-120 Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missiles. Actual weapon release software will come with the Block 2B update that will be hosted on flight test aircraft later this year, giving the type what Lockheed Martin refers to as an “initial warfighting” capability. This is not due to be featured on the fleet until mid-2015, pushing back the introduction of releases 3I (Initial) and 3F (Final).
According to O’Bryan, both Israel and Japan have signed letters of agreement for the F-35A, and discussions with the Japanese are ongoing for a final assembly and checkout facility that could be delivering aircraft from 2017. The facility at Cameri will build both Italian F-35 A and B models, as well as aircraft destined for the Netherlands.
Italy will receive its first aircraft in 2015 and Australia will get its F-35s in 2014. Israel and Japan will receive their first aircraft in 2016. The U.K. is set to receive its third aircraft, BK-3, this spring. It is set to be delivered to MCAS Beaufort, where training will begin alongside crews from the U.S.. The fourth U.K. F-35, BK-4, will be another instrumented aircraft, and will be operated alongside BK1 and 2 at Eglin.