March 7, 2007

Perhaps They Should Have Tested More - Lockheed Martin Corp.

A squadron of new F-22 aircraft go "deaf, dumb, and blind" as "all systems dump" while crossing the International Date Line (see: .

A Year 2000-like or Daylight Saving Time-like bug?
An unrelated glitch in the millions of lines of code in this system?

It's not (yet) clear.

Jet launch highlights problems

Experts say the F-22s' navigation issue is an embarrassment for contractors.
Richard Burnett and Chris Cobbs | Sentinel Staff Writers
Posted March 5, 2007

The Air Force recently showcased its newest fighter jet, the F-22 Raptor, with a group flight over the Pacific Ocean, but some analysts say a technical glitch that tainted the flight was a wake-up call for the defense industry.

A half-dozen F-22s were flying from Hawaii to Japan last month when their navigation computers malfunctioned as they crossed the International Date Line.

Unable to correct the problem during the flight, the group flew back to Hawaii, where it took two days of troubleshooting before the glitch was fixed. Lockheed Martin Corp., the F-22's prime contractor, coordinated the effort. Eventually, the Raptor group made it safely to Okinawa.

Lockheed and the Air Force say that there was no major problem with the F-22. Glitches often occur with new electronic systems, they said, and the F-22's other equipment performed flawlessly.

Still, the disruption had to be an embarrassment for the contractors and the Air Force, some aerospace experts said.

The flight to Japan was supposed to "show off" the F-22 and convince the Japanese that "it is just what they needed to fend off communist Red China" in some potential future conflict, said John Pike, president of, a defense-research firm in Washington, D.C.

"I think the Japanese will ultimately be persuaded of that," he said, "but this incident did not assist the U.S. in making its case."

The F-22's high-profile glitch was a cautionary tale for the aviation industry, other experts said. It should motivate engineers to do more advance testing of sophisticated flight software to avoid such errors in the future, they said.

"Is this a wake-up call? Yes, absolutely," said Andrew Kornecki, an engineering professor at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and an expert on navigation software. "People in the industry are already exchanging information about that situation."

It's still not clear exactly what happened to the F-22's navigation system, which uses Global Positioning System satellites to guide them through the air.

Some outside experts have speculated the system's software did not properly handle the change at the International Date Line -- a notion Lockheed disputes. Company officials say it was coincidental that the glitch occurred when the aircraft crossed the date line.

Whatever the cause, it would be helpful if Lockheed would share it with the broader aviation-engineering community, so others could benefit, Kornecki said. But he acknowledged that may not happen because of Lockheed's competitive concerns or the military's security issues.

"The problem may have involved the International Date Line or it may be some other glitch that they don't want to tell the public about," Kornecki said. "It is obviously a very closely guarded situation.",0,185282,print.story?coll=orl-technology-headlines