Catastrophic Radar glitch requires F-35 fighter jet pilots to turn it off and on again

With more than $1 trillion into its development, the much maligned F-35 Joint Strike Fighter is experiencing glitches with its radar systems, which stops working mid-flight and requires the pilot to turn it off and on again.

Explaining the problem in an IHS Jane report, US Air Force Major General Jeffrey Harrigian, director of the F-35 Integration Office said the problem being with the fighter’s “radar stability—the radar’s ability to stay up and running.” He added, “What would happen is they’d get a signal that says either a radar degrade or a radar fail—something that would force us to restart the radar.”

In development since 2001, the Lockheed Martin plane, which is the most software-driven warplane ever built, has experienced several failures and obstacles that have seen its cost swell and its delivery delayed. It could also hinder its performance against less intelligent, older aircrafts. Each jet is now expected to cost about £100m.

The radar bug (and its suggested fix) is surprising, but not that unexpected. This isn’t the first blow on the F-35’s software. Internal memos from the Department of Defense have highlighted fears that the fighter’s software might not be sufficiently shielded against cyber-attacks. There have also been assortments of sensor issues that, if not quickly fixed, stand to push back a declaration of combat readiness for the Air Force’s F-35A variant from August 1st until later in the year.

The bugs were found “in fusion, electronic warfare, and weapons employment result in ambiguous threat displays, limited ability to respond to threats, and a requirement for off-board sources to provide accurate coordinates for precision attack.” In short, because of software bugs, the F-35 was rendered useless. And now the creators have yet another bug to fix.

The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program, in the meantime, is becoming the most expensive military bloopers of all time. Flight performance remains still a major concern, and many of the computers that affect how the aircraft flies are regularly being updated. Unfortunately for anyone that wants to see this jet take off for battle, the plane has yet to be tested for resistance to hacking. So, the problematic program still continues.

However, Harrigian had mentioned that Lockheed Martin has found the root cause of the problem and it’s now in the process of developing a solution and testing it through the software lab. The latest round of bug fixes for this next-generation warplane is expected to be delivered to the United States Air Force by the end of this month.