F-35 software block and high-tech helmet still pose challenges

After years of delays and running over budget, officials are finally reporting some good news on the F-35 Lightning II program. Back in May, the program had reportedly reduced its costs by $4.5 billion. Key Pentagon officials have stated the F-35 project is now on target despite key milestones that must still be met.

The announcement came when Pentagon officials addressed the Senate panel this week.

“On the whole, the F-35 design today is much more stable [than in previous years],” Frank Kendall, undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics, told the Senate Appropriations defense subcommittee.

Kendall also stated that the F-35 program would be ready for an increase in production during the fiscal 2015 budget. However, he did add that deadlines for software blocks and the special high-tech helmet required to support the F-35 technology suite still pose challenges.

“There are a number of technical issues that need to be resolved,” Kendall said, including the tail hook for the Navy’s F-35C carrier variant that will undergo testing within the next few months.

Senator Dick Durbin, D-III, who chairs the subcommittee, said, "I think that this project is stronger today than it’s been. I think a fifth-generation aircraft is needed for our future, and I think we made mistakes along the way in the acquisition process. I hope today’s hearing will help us learn from those mistakes."

Supporters of the F-35 program still believe the aircraft is critical to allowing the U.S. to maintain air superiority. Maintaining air superiority is even more important with new fifth-generation aircraft emerging from countries such as China. The Chinese have been showing off a stealth fighter called the J-20 over the last year.

Source: Defense News

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