The Pentagon's F-35 program office on Friday said it was "laser-focused" on finishing development of the software needed for the U.S. Marine Corps to start using its Lockheed Martin Corp F-35 fighter jets from mid-2015. The Pentagon's chief weapons tester warned in a report obtained by Reuters and published on Thursday that a possible 13-month delay in F-35 software development, coupled with maintenance and reliability problems, could delay the Marine Corps' plans. But Air Force Lieutenant General Chris Bogdan, who runs the Pentagon's F-35 program office, says he remains confident that Lockheed will complete the Block 2B software that gives the jet its initial combat capability in time. Bogdan restructured the F-35 program office last year to put a greater emphasis on software, which he considers the No. 1 technical risk to the $392 billion program, said his spokesman Joe DellaVedova.
As part of the changes, he said Bogdan had named a number of people or "czars" to oversee the range of efforts linked to the Block 2B software and later software versions, as well as the drive to reduce the F-35's maintenance and operating costs.
"Lieutenant General Bogdan and the F-35 program are laser- focused on delivering the Block 2B capability to the warfighter," DellaVedova said. "We track and review F-35 software development data religiously and we're confident we'll deliver Block 2B in time to meet the Marine Corps' needs."
Lockheed is developing three models of the new warplane for the U.S. military and eight partners: Britain, Canada, Australia, Turkey, Italy, Norway, Denmark and the Netherlands. Israel and Japan have also placed orders.
Marine Corps officials had no immediate comment on the new report, but the service has not revised its plans to declare an F-35 "initial operational capability" by July 2015.
The report, which was delivered to Congress on Friday, got a muted reaction from the countries that helped pay for development of the new plane or placed orders.