A US Marine Corps F-35B Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) has acted as an “elevated sensor” for the Aegis combat system for the first time.
During trials conducted from the White Sands Missile Range, the unmodified F-35B detected an over-the-horizon threat and passed targeting data via its Multi-Function Advanced Data Link (MADL) to the land-based USS Desert Ship test facility via a ground station, with the target subsequently engaged and intercepted by an SM-6 missile.
It was the first live fire event that successfully demonstrated the integration of the F-35 to support the Naval Integrated Fire Control-Counter Air (NIFC-CA) program, Lockheed Martin, builder of both the F-35 and Aegis combat system, said.
“NIFC-CA is a game-changer for the US Navy that extends the engagement range we can detect, analyse and intercept targets,” Dale Bennett, executive vice president, Lockheed Martin Rotary and Mission Systems, said in a statement on September 13.
“The F-35 and Aegis Weapon System demonstration brings us another step closer to realising the true potential and power of the worldwide network of these complex systems to protect and support warfighters, the home front and US allies.”
The trial was of likely of great interest to the ADF, which is acquiring F-35A JSFs for the Royal Australian Air Force and Aegis-equipped Air Warfare Destroyers (AWDs) for the Royal Australian Navy.
In a laboratory environment at its ‘Lighthouse’ Center for Innovation facility in Virginia Lockheed Martin has already demonstrated the ability of an F-35A and an AWD to undertake a coordinated engagement, as part of trials to demonstrate scenarios for the ADF’s AIR 6500 joint battle management system program.
Lockheed Martin is one of four prime contractors, as well as Boeing, Northrop Grumman and Raytheon, due to submit an AIR 6500 capability solutions study this month.