The U.S. Military's F-35 Nightmare Has Just Begun

F-35 Stealth Fighter from U.S. Air Force

The U.S. Military's F-35 Nightmare Has Just Begun

The F-35 Lightning II, the most advanced military fighter jet, faces significant delays due to persistent issues with its TR-3 software update.


Summary: The F-35 Lightning II, the most advanced military fighter jet, faces significant delays due to persistent issues with its TR-3 software update.



-These problems have halted deliveries, with around 80 aircraft currently in storage.

-Even after resuming deliveries, the aircraft will likely need regular software patches, impacting operational availability.

-The TR-3 update is crucial for the upcoming Block 4 upgrade, but ongoing delays are causing frustration among stakeholders, including Congress and international partners.

-Despite its technological challenges, the F-35 remains a critical asset, known for its versatility and advanced capabilities across various mission sets.

F-35 Deliveries Halted: Persistent Software Issues Plague Advanced Fighter Jet

The F-35 Lightning II stealth aircraft is the most advanced military fighter jet in the skies today. But a streak of technological issues has brought an abrupt halt to the program – a stoppage that is likely to go on for months. According to the F-35 office, even when deliveries of F-35 aircraft resume, issues with its software might persist.

Persistent Tech Issues

Lockheed Martin, the manufacturer of the F-35, has run into problems with the aircraft’s TR-3 software update. The situation is so bad that new aircraft coming out of the production line are being stored instead of delivered.  

Even when these aircraft, which number around 80 as of now, are delivered, they will likely require further patches once every six months, or at least once per year. As such, the aircraft will require short grounding at regular intervals that will affect their operational availability. 

The TR-3 software upgrade includes more powerful processing ability and a new cockpit display that will both serve as a basis for the big Block 4 upgrade. However, as delays persist, patience with the program exhausts. Congress is likely to force the military to buy fewer F-35 fighter jets over the coming years and also force it to stop accepting new aircraft that aren’t ready. International partners are also getting anxious about the delays, since their defensive postures depend to varying degrees on the fifth-generation stealth fighter.

The F-35 Lightning II Stealth Fighter Jet

The second operational fighter jet in the U.S. military and the most advanced in the world, the F-35 Lightning II is a fifth-generation, multi-role aircraft that comes in three versions. 

The F-35A is the conventional take-off version used by the U.S. Air Force and most international partners. The F-35B is the Short Take-off, Vertical Landing version that can take off and land like a helicopter but still fly like a fighter jet. This version is used by the U.S. Marine Corps, as well as by the British, Italian, Japanese, and Singaporean militaries. Finally, the F-35C is the carrier-based version of the stealth fighter jet and is designed to withstand the enormous forces required to land and take off from an aircraft carrier. The U.S. Navy and Marine Corps are the only operators of this iteration.


What makes the F-35 especially valuable is its ability to act as a quarterback in the sky, using its advanced sensors to identify and track air, ground, and naval threats and direct friendly assets toward them. In addition, it is an extremely capable aircraft that can conduct several different mission sets, including Strategic Attack; Air Superiority; Close Air Support; Electronic Warfare; Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance; Suppression of Enemy Air Defenses; and Destruction of Enemy Air Defense. Indeed, in many ways, the F-35 has tried to consolidate many different aircraft, like the F-15 Eagle and A-10 Warthog, into one. 

Despite their differences in terms of launch and recovery, the three versions of the F-35 are essentially the same aircraft, with only small variations in performance. 

About the Author

Stavros Atlamazoglou is a seasoned defense journalist specializing in special operations and a Hellenic Army veteran (national service with the 575th Marine Battalion and Army HQ). He holds a BA from the Johns Hopkins University and an MA from the Johns Hopkins’ School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS). His work has been featured in Business Insider, Sandboxx, and SOFREP.

All images are Creative Commons. 

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