The software onboard the Pentagon’s multi-billion dollar F-35 Joint Strike Fighter might make the next-generation aircraft so vulnerable to cyberattacks that its pilots end up wishing they were flying something a bit less sophisticated.
The F-35's logistics system "continues to struggle in development with ... a complex architecture with likely (but largely untested) cyber deficiencies," according to a memo written last month by the Pentagon’s top weapons tester that was obtained by IHS Jane’s 360.
The official also raised concerns about possible delays in the aircraft's combat software development. When completed, the fighter is supposed to run on more than eight million lines of code, according to Lockheed Martin, the plane’s manufacturer.
The development is a sign that despite recent positive steps by the F-35 program -- including the news that it would make its debut at two major United Kingdom air shows this summer after a two-year delay -- the world’s most expensive weapon is not turbulence-free just yet.
The news of software problems is likely to put even the fighter’s most ardent supporters on edge. In 2009, Chinese hackers are suspected of stealing the F-35’s blueprints. U.S. officials claim no classified information was taken in the breach, but concerns have lingered that the jet’s software was laid bare.
A spokesman for the Pentagon’s F-35 joint program office told Jane’s that the agency had conducted over 2,000 cyber tests on the aircraft, including 300 last year, but admitted there is a potential for the software schedule to fall behind, for up to four months.
Defense officials still plan to get the plane with the most advanced software ready by summer 2017, but as of this month development flight testing has completed only half of its test, the F-35 office told Jane’s.