Former F-35 worker sues Lockheed, alleges software lapses

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A newly unsealed lawsuit accuses Lockheed Martin of developing corrupt and possibly dangerous software for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter flight control system and then lying about it to the government.

Sylvester Davis, former software lead and software product manager for the F-35 flight control application at Lockheed Martin, has filed the False Claims Act suit in US District Court for the Virgin Islands.

Davis' lawsuit recommends to the court that Lockheed should "immediately" stop developing software for the F-35 to "avoid further waste" of resources and the "serious risks" to F-35 pilots.

"The software contains substantial corruption," says the lawsuit, "which has multiplied significantly the risks that the software will not operate as intended."

The lawsuit also alleges that Davis informed Lockheed managers of the software problems and attempted to change their processes to meet the government's contractual standards.

While initially Lockheed presented Davis with an award for raising awareness of the issue, the lawsuit says, the company failed to correct the underlying problems.

Davis continued to raise concerns about the software integrity both within the company and to government officials, according to the lawsuit. Davis alleges that prompted a series of internal reprisals, ending in his "constructive termination" from his Lockheed job, court documents say.

"Much of the hundreds of millions of dollars spent, thus far, have been wasted because of [Lockheed's] dishonest conduct which has created an unacceptably dangerous product," the lawsuit says.

When asked to respond to Davis' allegations, a Lockheed spokesman sent a statement by email: "We do not find merit to any claims raised in the complaint by Mr. Davis and we will vigorously defend this matter in court."

Davis's claims stand in sharp contrast to glowing reviews of the F-35's software maturity to date, with more than 100 test flights since Davis left the company.

US Marine Corps Brig Gen David Heinz, the F-35 programme executive, told reporters on 3 June that Lockheed has achieved a higher level of software maturity on the F-35 than any previous US weapons programme at this stage of development.

Lockheed has also stated that no flight test has been disrupted or delayed by software issues in the flight control system.

For his part, Davis is seeking a jury trial to award monetary and punitive damages from Lockheed to himself and to the US government.

The case is one of several lawsuits brought against Lockheed under the False Claims Act by Houston-based lawyer Samuel Boyd. Boyd's other clients include purported "whistleblowers" from inside Lockheed's F-22 and Deepwater programmes.