from the it's-always-something dept.
El Reg reports:
Contract wrangle overshadows milestone
The F-35 fighter jet has completed one of its years-long flight testing programmes--just in time for the United States to suspend all deliveries of the new supersonic aircraft.
The final flight of the F-35's System Development and Demonstration (SDD) phase took place earlier this week, flown by British BAE Systems test pilot Pete "Wizzer" Wilson. He flew an F-35C (the version designed for conventional aircraft carriers) on a flight intended to check that the aircraft can safely carry 2,000lb bombs and Sidewinder anti-aircraft missiles together.
[...] Finishing SDD means that Block 3F of the aircraft's operating system can now be frozen and rolled out to all worldwide users. That block is not without its own rather fundamental problems, as the US Department of Operational Test and Evaluation has found. Flight tests will continue to validate later versions of the software, such as the still-in-beta Block 4, as well as ironing out bugs discovered during Block 3F testing and deferred to later releases.
However, even as the flight test programme came to a close, the US Department of Defence stopped accepting new jets from manufacturer Lockheed Martin over a contract wrangle. Reuters summarised it in the following terms: "Neither party discovered the issue at the time of production, so each has pointed to the other to fix it."
An American government spokesman said: "This is not a safety of flight issue but rather a contractual resourcing issue that needs to be resolved. The [US] government has implemented this pause to ensure the warfighter receives a quality product from industry."