Lockheed Martin Studying How To Widely Share F-35 Sensor Data

Lockheed Martin [LMT] is exploring how the wealth of sensor data collected by its F-35 Joint Strike Fighter will be distributed to a wide range of air, land and sea forces, a company official said March 5.

The F-35’s “amazing suite of information-gathering technology,” including the Multi-Mission Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) Radar and the Electro-Optical Targeting System (EOTS), provides information that “everyone wants” to have, said Jeff Babione, executive vice president and general manager of Lockheed Martin’s F-35 program. 

The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. Photo by Lockheed Martin.

The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. Photo by Lockheed Martin.

“How do I take what the F-35 knows and push it out [to other forces]? We are working through those technologies,” Babione told reporters at a Lockheed Martin media day.

Specific studies so far have looked at how the F-35 could communicate with the U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptor and naval systems.

Babione said that Lockheed Martin and other companies believe that advanced waveforms will be key to enabling such “universal communication.” But the exact plan for achieving such connectivity is “yet to be written,” he added.

Babione made his comments in response to a question about how the F-35 will fit into the Air Force’s new plan for replacing the aging E-8C JSTARS ground-surveillance aircraft with an Advanced Battle Management System (ABMS) that fuses threat information from various sensors (Defense Daily, Feb. 12). The Air Force unveiled the ABMS concept in its fiscal year 2019 budget request.

Babione also told reporters that the F-35 program has gained "momentum" after experiencing years of cost, schedule and technical problems. The program is almost done with its system development and demonstration phase, is steadily increasing its production rate and is on track to lower the cost of the F-35A conventional-takeoff-and-landing variant to $80 million by 2020.

Babione said that further cost reductions will depend on several factors, including continued increases in the production rate and whether the United States approves a multi-year procurement to achieve greater economies of scale.

“I don’t know how low you can go” on price, he said.

Lockheed Martin announced March 1 that Babione will soon be leaving the F-35 program to replace the retiring Rob Weiss as head of Lockheed Martin’s Skunk Works unit. Greg Ulmer, who has overseen F-35 production, will take the program helm.

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