GAO concerned with delays in software for the F-35  (Source: Lockheed)
Final block of code isn't expected until 2015

Things keep getting worse for the embattled F-35 program. Continued delays in flight testing scheduled and mounting problems have driven the program over its allotted budget. The problem according to the GAO is that the delays are mounting in some aspects rather than improving.

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) reported to the House Armed Services Committee subcommittee this week that the program was two years late in releasing the second of five progressively more complex software versions for the F-35. This is what the GAO figures it’s the most challenging phase of the development program and congressional auditors say the plane is "significantly behind schedule as it enters its most challenging phase."

GAO director Michael Sullivan told the panel, "Each of the remaining three [software] blocks [needed for full war- fighting capability] are now projected to slip more than three years [compared with schedule set in 2006]." The final block of software code won’t be delivered until 2015.

The GAO noted that, "Delays have cascading effects hampering flight tests [and] training. While progress is being made, a substantial amount of work remains."

The annual GAO report on the F-35 program is due later this month reports Bloomberg and the warnings to the House subcommittee serve as an indicator of what will be in the report. Vice Admiral David Venlet, Pentagon program manager, said that the project had been challenged and noted that it was "on sound footing" after the program development was slowed to extend development and to slow production.

The GAO auditors aren’t convinced though reports The Hill. The GAO report warned, "Affordability for the U.S. and partners is challenged by a near doubling in average unit prices since program start and higher estimated life-cycle costs. Going forward, the [F-35 program] requires unprecedented funding levels in a period of more austere defense budgets.”

The GAO noted that the program has still not been able to demonstrate that the F-35 design is stable. The GAO said, "After more than nine years in development, the program has not fully demonstrated the aircraft design is stable, manufacturing processes are mature and the system is reliable."

The F-35 fleet was grounded again this week for the second time in six months after generator failure and an oil leak occurred during a test flight. Despite the delays and the continued concern in Washington about the program, the Navy detailed what it would be purchasing this month.

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