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(Adds quotes from Lockheed executives, background)
By Andrea Shalal
WASHINGTON, Feb 18 (Reuters) - Lockheed Martin Corp may need to update the F-35 fighter jet's software after issues arose during testing, but that should not delay the U.S. Marine Corp's plan to declare the jet ready for initial combat use in July, the head of the company's aeronautics division said Wednesday.
Orlando Carvalho, executive vice president for Lockheed Aeronautics, told Reuters that some issues had come up during testing with radar tracking in the fighter jet's mission systems software, but that they were "manageable" before the July target date.
Flight testing with the 2B software which runs the jet and its weapons systems had revealed "some areas that we have to clean up a little bit" to improve integration of radar tracking data, Carvalho said.
The F-35 program has been dogged with software issues, although most of the problems have been worked out and company and government officials say the program's development - including software - is on budget and schedule.
"I still feel very confident that we're going to get there," Carvalho said, when asked if the software issues could delay the Marine Corps July target date. Carvalho spoke with Reuters during the company's annual media day.
He said the company was working closely with the F-35 program office and the Marine Corps to determine whether the issues needed to be addressed with a separate software update. A decision was expected in coming weeks, he said.
Lorraine Martin, Lockheed's F-35 program manager, said she was confident that the F-35 program was moving along well on multiple fronts to prepare for the Marine Corps target date, including software development, flight testing, training and even preparation of threat scenarios for pilots.
Carvalho stressed that software testing was designed to flush out areas for improvement, and he did not view the new software challenge as a critical showstopper for the program. (Reporting by Andrea Shalal; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Christian Plumb)