Software Development

A Digital Jet for the Modern Battlespace

Underpinning the F-35’s unrivaled capabilities is more than 8 million lines of software code – more than four times the amount of the world’s first 5th generation fighter, the F-22 Raptor. From flight controls to fusing together the F-35’s sensor data to form a clear and comprehensive picture of the battlespace, software is essential.

F-35 software enables:

  • Flight controls
  • Radar functionality
  • Communications, navigation and identification
  • Electronic attack
  • Sensor fusion
  • Weapons deployment

The Key to Initial Operating Capability

The Services have stated that software is the key to declaring Initial Operating Capability (IOC) for the F-35. Developing, integrating and testing more than 8 million lines of code on a supersonic stealth fighter is no small task. That’s why Lockheed Martin has pulled key talent from across the enterprise to augment the F-35 software development and integration teams. In order to ensure the maximum efficiency for the new resources, the team added an additional system development lab and has plans to enhance current labs to test more capability and become more robust. Additionally, Lockheed Martin has optimized its staffing plans to ensure that labs are used six or seven days a week for more than 20 hours per day to drive maximum throughput. More than 500 missions system and software engineers work around the clock to ensure the F-35 will be ready for IOC.

A Block Development Approach

From the program’s outset, the software team has focused on developing six key software releases known as Blocks:

  • Block 1A/1B – Block 1 comprises 78 percent of the more than 8.3 million source lines of code required for the F-35’s full warfighting capability. Block 1A was the ready for training configuration while Block 1B provided initial multi-level security.
  • Block 2A – Block 2A is currently released to the F-35 fleet. It provides enhanced training including functionality for off-board fusion, initial data links, electronic attack and mission debrief. With Block 2A, nearly 86 percent of the required code for full warfighting capability is flying.
  • Block 2B – Block 2B provides initial warfighting capabilities, including but not limited to expanded data links, multi-ship fusion and initial live weapons. The U.S. Marines will declare IOC with Block 2B. With Block 2B, more than 87 percent of the required code for full warfighting capability is flying.
  • Block 3i – Block 3i provides the same tactical capabilities as Block 2B. The principal difference between 2B and 3i is the implementation of new hardware, specifically the updated Integrated Core Processor. The Air Force will declare IOC with Block 3i. With Block 3i, 89 percent of code required for full warfighting capability is flying.
  • Block 3F – Block 3F provides 100 percent of the software required for full warfighting capability, including but not limited to data link imagery, full weapons and embedded training. Mission Systems Block 3F software development is 95 percent complete.

Current Software Development Status

As of March 2015, more than 97 percent of the required F-35 software is currently flying. More than 99 percent of the required software has been coded. This equates to about 25,000 lines of code that remain to be written.

In 2014, the F-35 began 3i Software testing and completed 99 percent of 2B testing, which will be the baseline for Marine Corps IOC in 2015. Pilots conducted extensive testing during F-35C Sea Trials aboard the USS Nimitz including night flights and arrested landings. Additionally, the Integrated Test Force team completed F-35B wet runway and crosswind testing at Edwards Air Force Base.