Defeat of the Super-Villains, Part II

Besides weight, software has been the worst offender in driving aircraft development costs through the roof. Thanks to lessons learned on other programs, notably the F-22, the F-35 is not having those issues, said Dan Crowley, Lockheed Martin VP and F-35 general manager. The F-35 is a software-intensive aircraft and will ultimately have 19 million lines of code, but Crowley said the software effort is on track and more than half of the software needed for early operational versions is done. The Pentagon’s Cost Analysis Improvement Group initially set a pessimistic outlook on software for the fighter, but the CAIG recently visited the F-35’s code operations and came away “I think … genuinely impressed,” Crowley said Thursday. He expects a rosier outlook when the CAIG updates its software projections. Unlike the F-22, which suffered from “software instability” fairly late in development, the F-35 has had none show up in flight. That’s partly because the F-35’s processors are isolated from each other—they have shared processors for fusion—so one can’t take them all down in a software crash. Another crisis predicted for the F-35 years ago—availability of qualified code-writers—hasn’t materialized. Whether due to the weak economy or the attractiveness of the project, the F-35 has all the programmers it needs.