By Bill Carey
ORLANDO, Florida—A legal dispute between Lockheed Martin and the U.S. government that held up development of a key F-35 testing system is not further delaying the effort, says the manufacturer, which is awaiting a verdict by the Armed Services Board of Contract Appeals (ASBCA).
Lockheed Martin has delivered its products to the Naval Air Systems Command (Navair) to build the Joint Simulation Environment (JSE), including an “F-35 In a Box” software module that replicates the fighter’s mission systems for testing purposes. The software module contains nine algorithms that the manufacturer claims as intellectual property (IP), which the government disputes.
The Pentagon is relying on activation of the JSE, a high-fidelity modeling and simulation environment, to complete mission testing required for the F-35’s initial operational test and evaluation phase and a full-rate production decision. But the dispute over intellectual property rights has delayed the JSE by 2 1/2 years, according to acquisition executives.
The JSE was supposed to begin operating in late 2017 but now is scheduled to achieve the first-use milestone in July 2020, Robert Behler, Pentagon director of Operational Test and Evaluation, told lawmakers during a House Armed Services subcommittee hearing last month.
During a briefing Dec. 3 at the Interservice/Industry Training, Simulation and Education Conference, Chauncey McIntosh, Lockheed Martin vice president for F-35 training and logistics, said the IP dispute is not holding back Navair’s development of the JSE.
“Lockheed Martin has delivered all of its products to the Navair team,” including the F-35 In a Box module, McIntosh said. “The JSE team is currently integrating that product along with the other products that they’re fielding. There is no dispute that is preventing development of the Joint Simulation Environment for Navair.”
When a Defense Contracts Audit Agency review found no proof of Lockheed Martin’s IP claim, the manufacturer appealed to the ASBCA. It continues to await a decision. “We are supporting that appeal and [will] progress from there based on what happens with the appeal,” McIntosh said.
Also testifying before the House Armed Services subcommittee on Nov. 13, Air Force Lt. Gen. Eric Fick, F-35 program executive officer, said the program moved forward with the JSE despite the legal dispute.
“That slowed our progress in getting started and slowed our early progress once we had begun,” Fick told lawmakers. “In order to get on contract, in order to start moving forward, we had to sign up to accept less than government purpose rights, but reserved the right to challenge that intellectual property assertion.”
While Navair is developing the JSE at its headquarters at Patuxent River Naval Air Station, Maryland, the U.S. Air Force announced in January that it was building complementary JSE facilities at Edwards AFB, California, and Nellis AFB, Nevada. Plans call for breaking ground on both facilities next May.