Den amerikanske rigsrevision kom mandag med sin årlige statusrapport om F-35 Joint Strike Fighter-projektet. I år er det især udfordringerne med hensyn til kodningen af flyets software, som optager regnedrengene hos Governments Accountability Office (GAO). Emnet har været en del af de forrige års rapporter, men i år trækker GAO det endnu tydeligere frem som programmets primære problem p.t.
Titlen på dette års rapport er således: ” Problems Completing Software Testing May Hinder Delivery of Expected Warfighting Capabilities”
GAO advarer altså om, at problemer med at teste softwaren kan betyde, at de fly, der leveres i de kommende år, ikke vil være i stand til at kunne bruges i krig. Mere detaljeret skriver de:
“Delays in the testing of critical mission systems software have put the delivery of expected warfighting capabilities to the Marine Corps at risk, and could affect the delivery of capabilities to the Air Force and Navy as well. F-35 developmental flight testing is separated into two key areas: mission systems and flight sciences. Mission systems testing is done to verify that the software and systems that provide critical warfighting capabilities function properly and meet requirements, while flight science testing is done to verify the aircraft’s basic flying capabilities. In a March 2013 report we found that development and testing of mission systems software was behind schedule, due largely to delayed software deliveries, limited capability in the software when delivered, and the need to fix problems and retest multiple software versions. These same challenges continued thorough 2013.”
Og hvis udviklingen af missionssystemerne bliver forsinket, så kan det betyde, at testflyvningerne ikke kan afsluttes i 2017, som det ellers var planen. Og det vil øge omkostningerne, advarer GAO.
“Delays in mission systems software testing could also increase costs. As currently planned, DOD expects to complete developmental flight testing in 2017. If the flight test schedule is extended, the program may have to retain testing and engineering personnel longer than currently expected, which would increase development cost.”
Softwareudviklingen er det største problem. I dette separate indlæg skriver jeg lidt om forventningerne til drifts- og anskaffelsespriser. Rimelig foruroligende læsning, som giver anledning til en del panderynker.
Men også andre ting volder problemer.
Det gælder blandt andet natkameraet i flyets avancerede hjelm, som tidligere har voldt problemer. Hjelmen er på sporet, men det er kameraet i den ikke helt, kan man forstå.
”DOT&E and program test pilots noted that the current night vision camera continues to have problems. The program has identified a new camera that it believes will address those problems, but that camera has not been fully tested to verify its capabilities,” skriver GAO.
Et andet problembarn fra tidligere har været den krog på F-35C hangarskibsversionen, som skal gribe en stålwire på dækket, når flyet lander på et hangarskib. Om det issue skriver GAO:
“The program determined that the original hook assembly was not strong enough to reliably catch the wire and stop the airplane. As a result, the program modified the hook system’s hydraulic components, and made structural modifications to the plane. In March 2013, the program completed a critical design review of the hook system to verify that the new design is sound. Land testing of the redesigned system has been successful, and the program anticipates that it will be ready for carrier testing in October 2014.”
Et tredje problembarn er nogle revner i strukturen på F-35B Short take off and vertical landing-versionen (STOVL). Et problem som man stadig ikke har fundet en løsning på, og som man ikke ved hvad koster at reparere.
“Structural and durability testing of the aircraft continued in 2013, and the program completed the first round of this testing on all three variants. The conventional takeoff and landing variant and the short takeoff and vertical landing variants have also started their second round of testing. During this second round of testing, the short takeoff and vertical landing test aircraft developed bulkhead cracks at the equivalent of 17 years of service life. Contractor officials noted that they were working to develop a solution to those cracks, but the total cost and schedule impacts of these bulkhead cracks are unknown at this time.”
Endelig er der flyets avancerede ALIS-system, som skal gøre det nemmere at vedligeholde flyet. En af de helt store ting i projektet. Her betyder mangel på testfaciliteter, at man er bagefter tidsplanen og ikke kan levere et færdigudviklet system, når US Marine Corps sætter flyet i drift i 2015.
“Autonomic Logistics Information System – an important tool to predict and diagnose maintenance and supply issues, automate logistics support processes and provide decision aids aimed at reducing life-cycle sustainment costs and improving force readiness. ALIS is being developed and fielded in increments. In 2013, the program had to release an update to the first increment because problems were discovered after the increment was released to the testing locations. The additional time to develop and field this update will likely delay the delivery of future increments. The program completed site activation of ALIS systems at some training and testing locations, and is in the process of adding capabilities and maturing ALIS in a second increment to support the Marine Corps’ initial operational capability. DOT&E notes that, although the second increment is scheduled to be delivered in time to support the Marine Corps’ initial operational capability, there is no margin for error in the development schedule. Testing of this ALIS increment is about two months behind largely due to a lack of test facilities. Program officials note that they are in the process of adding facilities. The third, and final, increment of ALIS that provides full capability is not expected to be released until 2016.”
GAO peger også på et overordnet problem med hensyn til finansieringen af den fortsatte udvikling af flyet.
“From fiscal year 2014 through fiscal year 2037, the program projects that it will require, on average, development and procurement funding of $12.6 billion per year, with several peak years at around $15 billion. Such a high average annual cost requirement poses affordability risks. At $12.6 billion a year, the F-35 acquisition program alone would consume around one-quarter of all of DOD’s annual major defense acquisition funding. Therefore, any change in F-35 funding is likely to affect DOD’s ability to fully fund its other major acquisition programs. In addition, maintaining this level of sustained funding will be difficult in a period of declining or flat defense budgets and competition with other large acquisition programs such as the KC-46 tanker and a new bomber. These costs do not include the costs to operate and maintain the F-35s as they are produced and fielded.”
Det er dog ikke lige skidt alt sammen. GAO fremhæver, at næsten hele det testflyvningsprogram, som var planlagt for 2013, blev gennemført trods visse udfordringer.
“The program made progress despite the fact that flight testing was halted twice at the beginning of the year to investigate and fix cracks in an engine fan blade and leaky fuel hoses. In addition, program and contractor officials emphasized that employee furloughs that occurred in 2013, due to mandatory sequestration, limited the amount of flight testing that could be done during that time as well.”
Nogle af de ting man fik testet i luften var:
• Conventional takeoff and landing variant – The program successfully demonstrated the variant’s ability to launch AIM-120 missiles from its internal weapons bay and to refuel while in flight. The program also continued testing the aircraft’s ability to function at high vertical flight angles, although program officials noted that the testing took longer than expected. As of December 2013, the program had accomplished 59 percent of its total expected flight science test points for this variant.
• Short takeoff and vertical landing variant – The program successfully demonstrated the STOVL’s ability to takeoff vertically, launch weapons from its internal weapons bay, and dump fuel when needed. In addition, the program conducted some testing of the variant at sea on an amphibious assault ship—specifically the USS WASP. As of December 2013, the program had accomplished 49 percent of its total expected flight science test points for this variant.
• Carrier-suitable variant – The program began testing the capability of the aircraft to function at high vertical flight angles. In addition, the program successfully demonstrated the aircraft’s ability to dump fuel when needed. Program and contractor officials noted that the program also made progress to begin testing to verify that the aircraft’s new arresting hook system could successfully catch a cable on a set of carrier arresting gear installed onshore at the Lakehurst facility. As of December 2013, the program had accomplished 43 percent of its total expected flight science test points for this variant.
Statusrapporterne fra GAO er den årlige gyser i kampflyverdenen. Det der især er værd at hæfte sig ved er, at det ikke ser ud til at blive bedre år for år. Det er naturligvis Rigsrevisionens opgave at fremhæve projektets problemer, men det er alligevel bemærkelsesværdigt, at det år efter år er særdeles svært at finde bare den mindste passage om positive udviklinger på projektet i GAO-rapporten. Testflyvningerne følger planen nogenlunde. Og man har fået testet nogle ting. Men der bliver ved med at være store problemer og risici på programmet. Så GAO-rapporten bliver ved med at være pligtlæsning for alle der kunne tænkes en dag at kaste skattekroner efter projektet.