Apr 12 2011

US General Schwartz: delay F-35 primarily caused by software

Gepubliceerd door JSFNieuws.nl om 22:03 onder Ontwikkeling JSF

Airforce Magazine quotes US Air Force Chief of Staff General Norton Schwartz that the US Air Force will reach Initial Operational Capability in Late 2017 at the earliest. General Schwartz told the House Appropriations Committee’s military construction panel last week (April 7, 2011):“That is still not quite firm. We thought before the restructure we would be able to declare initial operational capability in April of 2016. It’s going to be later than that, maybe late in the year in 2017, primarily because of software development issues“.

After the restructure announced in January 2011 by Minister of Defence Robert Gates the US Air Force is still reviewing its effect on the F-35A’s fielding schedule, but service officials have said there could be a delay up to two additional years, meaning as late as 2018. This is 6 years later than originally planned (IOC in 2012). Schwartz told the House Appropriations Committee that the F-35A “is performing actually quite well in testing. But integrating all of the capabilities onto the bird—weapon delivery capabilities and so on—is the current pacing item” caused by software development problems.

Software Development: Most Complex Work Still Ahead

The same concerns were expressed in the US GAO report, released the same day. In a separate paragraph about the software development we may read:

Software providing essential JSF capability is not mature and releases to the test program are behind schedule. Officials underestimated the time and effort needed to develop and integrate the software, substantially contributing to the program’s overall cost and schedule problems and testing delays, while requiring the retention of engineers for longer periods. Significant learning and development work remains before the program can demonstrate the mature software capabilities needed to meet warfighter requirements. Good progress has been made in the writing of software code—about three-fourths of the software has been written and integrated, but testing is behind schedule and the most complex work is still ahead. Program restructuring added a second software integration line which should improve throughput.

Software 4 times more lines than F-22 Raptor

The JSF software development effort is one of the largest and most complex in DOD history, providing 80 percent of JSF’s functionality essential to capabilities such as sensor fusion, weapons and fire control, maintenance diagnostics, and propulsion. JSF has about 8 times more on-board software lines of code than the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet and 4 times more than the F-22A Raptor. Also, the amount of code needed will likely increase as integration and testing efforts intensify. In 2009, officials reported that about 40 percent of the software had completed integration and testing. They did not provide us a progress report through 2010. Integration and test is a lengthy effort and is typically the most challenging phase of software development requiring specialized skills and integration test lines. The program has experienced a growth of 40 percent in total software lines of code since preliminary design review and 13 percent growth since the critical design review. Other recent defense acquisitions have experienced 30 to 100 percent growth in software over time.

All 5 software blocks delayed; up to 4 years

Software capabilities are developed, tested, and delivered in 5 blocks, or increments. Several blocks have grown in size and taken longer to complete than planned. Software defects, low productivity, and concurrent development of successive blocks created inefficiencies, taking longer to fix defects and delaying the demonstration of critical capabilities. In addition, program and prime contractor officials acknowledge they do not include integration as a key tracking metric and have been unable to agree on how to track it. This has made it hard for the program to analyze integration trends and take action to remedy the situation. Instead the program office and prime contractor have made several adjustments to the software development schedule, each time lengthening the time needed to complete work.
Block 0.1 Flight Sciences; delayed from FY2006 to FY2007
Block 0.5 Initial Mission Systems Architecture from FY2008 to FY2010
Block 1.0 Initial Training Capability from FY2008 to FY2011
Block 2.0 Initial Warfighting Capability from FY2010 to FY2014 (current estimate)
Block 3.0 Full Warfighting Capability from FY2011 to FY2015 (current estimate)

Cascading effects, hampering tests and training

Delays in developing, integrating, and releasing software to the test program have cascading effects hampering flight tests, training, and lab accreditation. While progress is being made, a substantial amount of software work remains before the program can demonstrate full warfighting capability. The program released block 0.5 for flight test nearly 2 years later than planned in the 2006 plan, largely due to integration problems. Each of the remaining three blocks—providing full mission systems and warfighting capabilities—are now projected to slip between 2 to 3 years compared to the 2006 plan. Defects and workload bottlenecks delayed the release of full block 1 capabilities; the initial limited release of block 1 software was flown for the first time in November 2010. Software defects increased throughout 2010, but fixing defects did not keep pace.

Capabilities moved to future Blocks

Some capabilities were moved to future blocks in attempts to meet schedule and mitigate risks. For example, full data fusion mission systems were deferred from block 2 to 3. Further trades and deferrals may be needed. Rather than working all blocks concurrently, focusing efforts on a more measured evolutionary approach could result in more timely release of incremental capabilities to the testing, training, and warfighter communities. Development and integration of the most advanced capabilities could be deferred to future increments and delivered to the warfighter at a later date.

Software identified as significant challenge; may influence F-35 CONOPS

The recent technical baseline review identified software as a significant challenge, slowing system development and requiring more time and money. Although officials are confident that such risks can be addressed, the scale and complexity of what is involved remains a technically challenging and lengthy effort. Uncertainties pertaining to critical technologies, including the helmet-mounted display and advanced data links, add to challenges. Deficiencies in the helmet mounted display, especially latency in transmitting sensor data, are causing officials to develop a second helmet while trying to fix the first model. Resolution could result in a major redesign or changes in the JSF’s concept of operations by placing limitations on the operational environment, according to program officials.

- Air-Force Magazine; Daily Report; April 12, 2011 “Schwartz: F-35A IOC in Late 2017″
- US GAO Report GAO-11-325 (April 2011; page 29-31)

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