According to multiple reports the U.S. Dept. of Defense will stop taking deliveries of new F-35 Joint Strike Fighter aircraft next month, because those aircraft will be updated with the Tech Refresh 3 hardware and software intended to bring the jets up-to-date with current standards for data collection/recall, as well as displays. The explanation for the expected halt is that the new TR-3 hardware and software has not yet cleared the Pentagon’s testing and approval processes.
According to the Pentagon F-35 Joint Program Office: “As we reported to Congress in March, we still see risk of TR-3 delivery slipping until the December 2023-April 2024 timeframe. Delivering combat capable aircraft to our warfighters is our #1 priority and TR-3 provides the computational horsepower that ensures the F-35 remains superior to potential adversaries for decades to come,” spokesman Russ Goemaere stated.
Lockheed commented that its “team is fully dedicated to delivering TR-3 F-35 aircraft and will continue to work with the JPO on software development while maintaining the highest levels of safety and quality.”
The number of aircraft that may be affected is not known. Lockheed Martin, the lead contractor of the extensive F-35 program, delivered 141 aircraft during 2022.
An agreement at the end of last year authorized the F-35 program to produce 145 aircraft in 2023, including the first to incorporate the TR-3 updates.
The DoD reportedly will continue to accept deliveries of the previous generation.
The F-35 is a series of three, Stealth-enabled single-engine aircraft designed for ground attack and combat, and deployed by the U.S. Air Force, U.S. Navy, and U.S. Marine Corps, and the defense forces of multiple allied nations. While program has been under steady scrutiny and criticism for the high cost of individual aircraft, and Lockheed and other contractors have made steady efforts to contain the costs for future deliveries.
DoD authorized Lockheed to implement the TR-3 upgrade in 2018, nominally in order to establish a modern network interface for the aircraft’s flight-control programs.
In addition to improving the data-management capabilities of the fighter aircraft, the TR-3 will be a technological framework for the F-35 forthcoming Block 4 update, which will be a new electronic warfare package as well as extra weapons for the aircraft. That ongoing development also is said to behind the official schedule.