- Dec 24, 2015
"The biggest potential challenge is that these modernization elements don't reach the warfighter as quickly as they'd hoped," one expert said.
WASHINGTON: Following the latest review by the Government Accountability Office, DoD is expected to again push back the schedule for the sprawling F-35 modernization effort.
The new report is yet another slap for the Joint Strike Fighter, which is already in DoD’s budget-cutting cross-hairs due to the plane’s exorbitant maintenance costs. Key members of Congress, including the Democratic Chair of the House Armed Services Committee Adam Smith, are also looking askance at the program, which is expected to cost nearly $2 trillion over its lifetime.
The GAO report found that the current 2027 goal for finalizing the Block 4 modernization is “not achievable.” GAO said that costs of the effort had ballooned by $1.9 billion between 2019 and 2020, bringing the overall cost to about $14.4 billion. Software development has been the primary driver of the problems, the report said — including the fact that about a quarter of the software being delivered by prime contractor Lockheed Martin was found to have defects after it had already been integrated into the aircraft.
The most insidious potential result of the GAO’s findings, sources say, is that continued issues in software delivery could delay integration of key subsystems, such as radar enhancements, to keep pace with the growing threats from adversaries. (The current 2027 deadline for Block 4 completion already represents a three-year delay from the 2024 deadline DoD set in its 2018 baseline for the effort.)