F-35 Software: DoD's Chief Tester Remains Unimpressed

U.S. Air Force

IT Hiccups of the WeekLast week was a very quiet week in regard to reported IT-related system snarls, snags and snafus. With yesterday being ground-hog day here in the U.S., and in keeping with the spirit of the movie of the same name, I have decided to return once more to F-35 Joint Strike Fighter and its continuing software “challenges.”  

Last week, the Department of Defense's Director of Operational Test and Evaluation (DOT&E), J. Michael Gilmore, publicly released his annual report on major U.S. defense acquisitions. Gilmore reiterated his frustration with the lack of reliability and supportability of software in major defense support and weapon system programs. While Gilmore’s report highlighted many defense programs' software problems, those related to the F-35 continue to hold center stage.

For instance, in October 2013, a new increment of Block 2B software—the block that provides initial combat capability—that was supposed to include many fixes to previously identified deficiencies, began flight testing, the report says. However, the DOT&E report goes on to say:

“Initial results with the new increment of Block 2B software indicate deficiencies still exist in fusion, radar, electronic warfare, navigation, EOTS, Distributed Aperture System (DAS), Helmet‑Mounted Display System (HMDS), and datalink. These deficiencies block the ability of the test team to complete baseline Block 2B test points, including weapons integration.”

Although plans call for the military to “complete Block 2B fight testing in October 2014...there is no margin for additional growth to meet that date,” the DOT&E report found. “Projections for completing Block 2B fight testing using the historical rate of continued growth ... show that Block 2B developmental testing will complete about 13 months later, in November 2015, and delay the associated fleet release to July of 2016.”

In addition, the DOT&E report notes that there are still problems with the F-35's Block 2A software, i.e., the block that is “designed to provide enhanced training capabilities to the Integrated Training Center at Eglin AFB, Florida, and to the first operational units.”

The F-35 test teams found:

“deficiencies in the aircraft sensor operations, particularly the Electro-Optical Targeting System (EOTS), aircraft communications capabilities, pilot electronic interfaces, and the aircraft Caution, Advisory, and Warning System. Although the software was intended to provide more mission systems capability, poor sensor performance and stability, excessive nuisance warnings, and disproportionate pilot workload required for workarounds and system resets made the software of limited utility for training. In any type of operational mission scenario, the performance of the software would be unacceptable.”

These and other software issues, e.g., related to the F-35's Autonomic Logistics Information System (ALIS)—as well as non-software related problems—notwithstanding, neither the U.S. military's nor its international partners’ enthusiasm for the F-35 has diminished. The Marine Corps, for instance, insists it's still planning for a 2015 IOC (initial operating capability) for its F35B version, while the U.K. says it is close to placing its first order and South Korea is expected to do so later this year.

The F-35 Program Office complained that while Gilmore’s report “was factually accurate” it “did not reflect concerted efforts under way by this office and industry to address software, reliability and maintenance issues,” Reuters reported. “Of course, we recognize risks still exist in the program, but they are understood and manageable,” the Program Office insisted.

Gilmore may need to remind the F-35 Program Office (again) that the DOT&E office deals with facts, not promises.

Gmail Glitch May Have Deleted Emails

I noted in last week’s IT Hiccups that Gmail and many other Google online applications including Calendar, Talk, Drive, Docs, Sites, Groups, Voice and Google+ Hangouts suffered an outage on Friday, 24 January that lasted a little more than an hour.  While Google says that the outage—caused a “software bug” that resulted in a misconfiguration of its systems—was quickly fixed, apparently there was some collateral damage that wasn’t immediately discovered.

As reported by the Verge, some Gmail users received a message early last week that stated, “You may have been impacted by a recent issue in Gmail that inadvertently caused some actions (e.g. delete, report spam) taken while viewing a message to be applied to a different message. The issue occurred between January 15 and January 22 and is now fixed. We encourage you to check your Trash and Spam folders before February 14, 2014 for any items you did not intend to delete or mark as spam and move them back to your inbox. We apologize for any inconvenience.”

It is not clear the exact number of Gmail users that were affected (Google indicates no more than 0.2 percent of its users), since only some platforms (e.g., Google’s iOS app, on mobile browsers, and the offline version of Gmail) and only some users of those platforms were affected.

Aspiring Drivers in Ahmedabad, India Frustrated by Transport Office Server Problems

There are some universal experiences that bond all humans together, like the enjoyment of good food, hearing good music, and wasting one’s time waiting at a department of motor vehicle office.  As reported by the Ahmedabad Mirror, we can all no doubt empathize with the 800 Amdavadis who had booked in advance a time to come in and apply for their learner’s license but “were forced to cool their heels for hours at Ahmedabad Regional Transport Office near Subhash Bridge” because of a server problem.

The Mirror story stated that the server problem occurred last Thursday morning, and officials at the RTO had hoped to resolve the problem by noon. However, this didn’t happen; the problem wasn’t fixed until late Friday. Meanwhile, RTO officials told the disappointed applicants who had waited right through the time the office closed on Thursday afternoon to come back and wait again this week.

F-35 Joint Strike Fighter Software Problems Linger On

F-35 Software Remains Seriously Flawed

Software Issues May Affected Marine F-35 Planned IOC

What’s Likely Behind F-35 Software Issues?

F-35 Program Office Says Its “Laser-focused” on Software Problems

Some Gmail Users May Have Had Email Accidentally Deleted

Gmail Bug Deletes Some Users’ Emails

Gmail Glitch Affects Emails

Only 0.2 Percent of Gmail Users Likely Had Emails Deleted

Aspiring Drivers in Ahmedabad, India Told To Come Back After Server Shuts Down Testing

RTO Server Crash Frustrates Learner’s Driving License Applicants

Of Other Interest …

Software Problems Distorting UK Further Education and Skills Statistics

Problems Plague Boston’s New MBTA Rail Cars

Citibank Payment Problems Affect UK Tax Filings

Successful State Health Exchanges Worry over ACA Flaws

Multi-Year NHS Glitch Causes £3.4 million in Over-payments to Scottish Dentists

Computer Issue Causes Urgent Jury Summons in Delaware

Photo: U.S. Air Force

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