As the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter Program (JSF) moves on, Lockheed Martin delivered the 100th Electro-Optical Targeting System (EOTS) which dramatically enhances the targeting capabilities of the 5th generation fighter:
Lockheed Martin recently delivered the 100th Electro-Optical Targeting System (EOTS) for the F-35 Lightning II. EOTS provides affordable, high performance multifunction targeting to the F-35’s full spectrum of military operations. EOTS is the first sensor that combines forward-looking infrared and infrared search and track functionality to provide F-35 pilots with situational awareness and air-to-air and air-to-surface targeting from a safe distance. This technology allows aircrews to identify areas of interest, perform reconnaissance and precisely deliver laser and GPS-guided weapons. “F-35 pilots can use the imagery to determine exactly where to strike while staying out of harm’s way,” said Ken Fuhr, director of fixed wing programs at Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control. “Delivering our 100th F-35 EOTS is one step closer to ensuring all F-35 pilots can perform their missions and return home safely.” Lockheed Martin is currently producing EOTS under the seventh low-rate initial production contract. Planned production quantities for the F-35 exceed 3,000 aircraft with deliveries through 2030. Key components of EOTS are manufactured at the company’s Ocala, Fla., and Santa Barbara, Calif., facilities. In addition to EOTS, Lockheed Martin also manufactures the low observable window for the aircraft at the company’s Orlando, Fla., facility.
As the Pentagon is to increase the F-35 production rate in 2015, the JSF dropped a GBU-31 guided bomb, near the speed of sound:
The Joint Strike Fighter program took another step forward July 1 with a successful weapons test following last month’s announcement that the U.S. would bump up production of the much maligned fifth generation fighter to 44 aircraft in 2015. A F-35A Joint Strike Fighter flying just under the speed of sound dropped a 2,000-pound GBU-31 guided bomb from an altitude of 10,000 feet on July 1 at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif. The test was flown to prove if the weapon would separate from the aircraft flying in a tactical environment, said John Haire, a spokesman at Edwards. The recent test was among the latest in a series of current assessments of the F-35 designed to inform the developmental process and move the platform forward toward full-rate production, said Joseph DellaVedova, a JSF program spokesman. The Pentagon plans to ramp up Low-Rate-Initial-Production of the JSF for the FY 2015 budget year, JSF program officials said. The move would bump up production numbers planned for LRIP 9 in 2015 to 44 planes for the U.S. “LRIP is when you iron out your supply chain and manufacturing issues,” said DellaVedova. The jump to 44 LRIP planes would constitute a sizeable jump from preceding LRIP lots such as LRIP 6, 7 and 8, which call for 31, 29 and 29 aircraft respectively, DellaVedova explained. Speaking to reporters following a JSF CEO summitt meeting last month, Frank Kendall, the Pentagon’s top buyer mentioned the acceleration plan.
On the other hand, rising costs, structural defects, and difficulties with developmental research continue to make F-35 road to final production line difficult:
Despite an optimistic new report from the Government Accountability Office, the Pentagon’s fledgling F-35 fighter jet continues to struggle with rising costs, structural defects and a ponderous research process. But if a sparsely attended Senate hearing last month is any indication, the program can expect clear skies going forward. The Brookings Institution’s Michael O’Hanlon was the lone non-governmental voice on a Senate Appropriations Committee panel dominated by military officers and acquisition personnel. He was also the only panelist to advocate even moderate cuts to the Pentagon’s most expensive conventional weapons system. “I was a little bit of an outlier in talking about an alternative to the program,” O’Hanlon told The Daily Caller News Foundation. Current cost estimates for the F-35’s research and acquisition stand at $12.6 billion every year from now until 2037, and once acquired Defense Department experts believe the fleet of aircraft will cost over $1 trillion to maintain. DOD officials claim that operating and support costs of this magnitude are ultimately unaffordable.
The Australian government wants the country’s industry to have a serious role not only in the production of F-35 construction parts, but also in the maintenance and support areas of the JSF:
The Australian government is pushing to get maintenance and support work for Australian industry on the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program. ”Australian industry is well placed to capitalize on the government’s investment in the program, winning $329 million (US$303 million) in contracts to date,” Minister for Defense Materiel Dr. Mike Kelly said. While Australian companies are currently bidding for work making parts for the construction of F-35 fighter, in the not-too-distant future there will be opportunities work in the maintenance and support areas for the plane, he said. Kelly made his comments at a Joint Strike Fighter industry day event in Canberra, attended by more than 100 Australian company representatives, government officials and representatives of U.S. companies involved in the F-35 program. Among Australian company representatives, were those from firms already producing components and services to the worldwide program — Quickstep Technologies, Marand Precision Engineering, Lovitt Technologies, TAE, Ferra Engineering, Levett Engineering — and others interested in future sustainment of JSF aircraft Australia will operate. ”Support provided by the Defense Materiel Organization’s Industry Support Program, Skilling and Training Programs, as well as the Defense Materials Technology Center and the Global Supply Chain Program have all helped Australian industry secure work,” Kelly said. “The ability of Australian companies to be ‘world class’ and cost-competitive in high-technology aerospace manufacturing processes requires world leading innovation and a highly trained and well managed workforce.”
Finally, the JSF has to prove itself and overcome multidimensional developmental problems caused by its innovative character and the use of defense innovation, materials, and systems. Innovation is a central challenge today, not only in aerospace and defense industry but also in every business activity. F-35 is to be a well-promising case study for future innovators.