Yes before you just say “happened with every fighter, they’ll get there”, read this article:
It makes very very clear that the main delay in the F-35 at this point is actually the software. Now I don’t know anything about fighter development, but I do know something about software development, and I can recognise the symptoms of a software project in a death spiral. The airforce’s and marine’s declaration of initial operational capability is a joke, the F-35 will not actually be usable in combat until the delivery of the Block3F software. That’s currently seven years behind schedule and not expected to be delivered until 2018 at earliest (thats optimistic in my opinion).
This is not the same as previous fighters were the kinks were worked out eventually, because no other plane is dependent to anywhere near such a degree on extremely complex and never before achieved software. Yes the F-22 has some sensor fusion but not anywhere near to the level they are aiming for in the F-35. It’s entirely possible that the features that are needed in BlockF are simply not possible on the current embedded computers, they underestimated the spec and need considerably faster more powerful computers to achieve what they have promised. On a plane you can’t just pop in a faster processors and some extra ram, more powerful computers means more space, heat, power and weight, all of which are already constrained on the F-35. Plus every chip used for aerospace needs to go through an approval process that takes years or even decades. Maybe they’ve already had to respec the embedded computers, that would explain the incredibly long delays which otherwise seem hard to understand.
Whats more, the article above also mentions they don’t have the verification simulator to check fixes on yet and won’t have it until at least 2018. That means every fix has to instead be tested on an actual F-35 in the air, slowing down the process even more.
Lastly and most worrying, it makes clear that Lockheed Martin and Pratt and Whitney are asking for a larger batch of 456 F-35’s to ramp up from initial production to full rate but Congress so far won’t approve such a large order until they see better results, but they’re not approving the funding needed to accelerate operational testing either. That’s how the death spiral starts. It’s behind in schedule, so order numbers are cut and production ramp up is delayed which then delays the schedule even more. Rinse and repeat.
You can say it will all be fixed, and yes that would be true eventually if money and time were unlimited and politics wasn’t involved. In reality at a certain point overseas purchasers will pull out and it will limp along for years more because no one is willing to pull the plug. Block 3F will probably eventually be delivered (around 2021 at this rate) but it will be achieved by fudging the requirements during operational testing like they have done so far with the current milestones at every stage.
Whatever happens by the time the F-35 is actually operational, it will be largely obsolete, due to advances in drones and radar. Chuck enough cheap drone’s into the air in a F-35’s path, once they get close enough they can detect the F-35 despite it’s stealth and the F-35 doesn’t have anywhere near enough ammo to shoot them all down.