Collins Aerospace hits F‑35 milestone

written by Adam Thorn | September 1, 2020
F35 cracks
While all three variants of the F-35 share a 25mm gun, the F-35A has an internal gun system.

The Australian arm of Collins Aerospace has reached the milestone of delivering its 1,000th, 360-degree situational awareness system for the US F‑35 Joint Strike Fighter Program.

The Electro-Optical Distributed Aperture System (EODAS) optical assembly is the eyes of the aircraft, providing the pilot with a 360-degree spherical view of their surroundings, the delivery of which marks a major milestone for the program.

Minister for Defence Linda Reynolds said the milestone demonstrates the world-class manufacturing capability of the Australian defence industry in the F‑35 Joint Strike Fighter Program.

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“The F-35s are the most advanced, multi-role stealth fighter in the world which will deliver next generation capability benefits and provide a major boost to air combat capability,” Minister Reynolds said.

Australian industry is manufacturing parts fitted to every F-35A in production globally. Australian industry involvement in production and sustainment is expected to exceed $2 billion by the end of 2023.

Minister Reynolds added, “The EODAS optical assembly is critical to detecting threats, by warning the pilot of incoming aircraft and missile threats and providing day/night vision and fire control capability. It collects real-time, high-resolution imagery from six infra-red cameras mounted around the F-35 and sends it to the pilot’s helmet-mounted display.”

Defence Industry Minister Melissa Price welcomed the milestone and what it means for Australia’s defence industry, saying more than 50 Australian companies have directly shared in more than $1.7 billion in global F-35A production contracts to date.

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“We continue to advocate for more opportunities for Australian industry participation as F-35A production rates increase, and as sustainment functions expand to support the growing global F-35A fleet,” Minister Price explained.

The company is also establishing a component manufacturing capability at its Lane Cove facility for the liquid crystal on silicon panel optical assembly. Collins Aerospace (Australia) is being supported in this endeavour by a New Air Combat Capability – Industry Support Program grant valued at $976,874.

Minister Price said, “The Australian arm of Collins Aerospace has also opened a new facility to perform maintenance, repair, overhaul and upgrade, as well as specialised component manufacturing, for the F-35 flight simulators’ ProSim projectors. This facility in Lane Cove, Sydney, will lead to the creation of up to eight new full-time jobs and a multi-million dollar revenue stream.”

The grants provide funding for Australian businesses and research organisations to help them win work in the F-35 program.

For the RAAF, the F-35A’s combination of full-spectrum low-observable stealth coatings and materials, advanced radar-dispersing shaping, network-centric sensor and communications suites – combined with a lethal strike capability – means the aircraft will be the ultimate force multiplying, air-combat platform.

The Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter is billed as a catalyst for the fifth-generation revolution, changing the face and capability of the RAAF and the wider Australian Defence Force.

Over the coming years, Australia will purchase 72 of the advanced fifth-generation fighter aircraft as part of the $17 billion AIR 6000 Phase 2A/B program – which is aimed at replacing the ageing F/A-18A/B Classic Hornets that have been in service with the RAAF since 1985.

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