An audit report of the Australian Natianal Audit Office provides an Australian perspective on the Australian Government’s participation in the United States of America’s Joint Strike Fighter Program.
The Australian Government plans to replace the Royal Australian Air Force’s (RAAF’s) 71 F/A-18A/B Hornet aircraft, which at the time of the preparation of this report were planned for withdrawal from service after 2020-2022. The F-35A aircraft are also planned to replace the RAAF’s 24 F/A-18F Super Hornet aircraft from 2025. In September 2012, the total development and production cost of 100 F-35As, and other costs shared with JSF partner nations, was estimated to be US$13.211 billion.
Summary of disastrous facts since 2001
In two paragraphs (5.55 and 5.56, page 157) the ANAO gives a good summary of the key-numbers and cost increases of the F-35 project;
- Decision on Fullrate Production of F-35 aircraft has been delayed by seven years from 2012 to 2019
- Production phase has been extended by two years to 2037
- Production costs now estimated to cost US$335.7 billion (then?year dollars)
- From 2001 (start SDD) until 2012 cost increase from US$233.0 billion to US$395.7 billion (70%)
- Total number of F-35 to be produced for the US has decreased by 14% from 2866 to 2457
- From 2001 unit average cost has grown from US$69 million to US$137 million (98%)
Riscs from Australian perspective
The ANAO audit report draws attention to the wide ranging cost, schedule and performance risks inherent in advanced defence technology development and production programs, such as the JSF Program. The audit noted that the task for Defence of successfully sustaining the ageing F/A-18A/B fleet to that date, so that no capability gap arises before the introduction into service of the F-35As, was already challenging. Given the age and expected condition of these aircraft at that point, each additional year in
service will involve significant costs.
IOT&E testing completed in 2019
ANAO writes: “Although current estimates of the F-35’s performance are close to those required, performance will not be fully demonstrated until the completion of Initial Operational Test and Evaluation, presently expected in February 2019“. This means that a real Initial Operational Capability date within USAF can not be expected before 2020.
ANAO: “Only 10% of verification of F-35 version complete”
With most of the more complex issues to be tested, after 6 years of flying with the F-35A (first flight december 2006) only about 21% of the testing was completed early 2012:
In relation to the F-35A variant to be purchased by Australia, the test and evaluation program requires the achievement of 24951 test points covering all F-35A warfighting requirements needed to achieve the Initial Operational Capability milestone. By March 2012, F-35A capability testing was ongoing, and a total of 5282 test points had been achieved. This represents some 21 per cent of the overall testing required to validate Initial Operational Capability achievement.
ANAO (page 105) writes that in April 2012, the JSF Program Office’s Verification Test and Evaluation had completed 292 success criteria of a total number of 2808 success criteria. On that basis, requirements verification is around 10 per cent complete.
Software development critical
Interesting is the paragraph (page 26) about the software development:
Software is critical to the success of the JSF Program, as it provides the means by which all safety-of-flight and missioncritical systems operate, and are monitored, controlled and integrated. F-35 software is being released in three capability blocks. Block 1 software provides an initial training capability, and in the second quarter of 2012 its test phase was completed and it was released into the F-35 pilot training program. Block 2 software is to provide initial war?fighting capability, including weapons employment, electronic attack, and interoperability between forces. At the time of the audit, the initial release of Block 2—known as Block 2A—was undergoing flight testing and was scheduled for release to the F?35 flight test program in September 2012, and for release to the F-35 pilot training program in the second quarter of 2013.
The final release of Block 2 capability—known as Block 2B—is scheduled for 2015. Block 3 software provides full F-35 warfighting capability, including full sensor fusion and additional weapons. At the time of the audit, 61 per cent of initial Block 3 capability had been developed against a target of 81 per cent, and its integration into F-35 flight test aircraft is planned to commence from November 2012. Block 3 release into the F-35 fleet is scheduled for mid-2017.
At the time of the audit, F?35 software development was undergoing high?risk mitigation management.
By 2016, F-35 airborne software required for Block 3 capability is expected to reach 9.3 million software lines of code.
A lot of details about the JSF software Blocks and development can be found at page 106-109.
The ANAO report offers a lot of valuable details, tables. The information can be considered as independent and usefull. Also the JSF Program Office confirmed that they agreed with the presented information.
JPO Director David Venlet (Appendix): “I find the F-35A extract of the proposed report to be a fair and balanced portrayal of the current state of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program. The professionalism demonstrated by your team during the research and writing of this report was exceptional, and I want to extend my t hanks to them for their hard work.”
The Australian Defence Organisation’s (Defence’s) management of the current Hornet and Super Hornet fleets is the subject of a companion audit in this (see PDF) ANAO Audit Report No.5 2012–13, Management of Australia’s Air Combat Capability; 27-sep-2012.