Cubic Global Defense completed the second round of tests for its internal P5 aboard the F-35 this month, pushing the US military closer to its first encrypted combat training system, Cubic’s senior business development manager says this week.

In previous training missions, the F-35 has used a low-fidelity, unencrypted identify friend or foe system. Like its podded configuration, the internal P5 provides real-time information, records mission data and provides post-training mission debriefs. The internal P5 will update information faster than an identify friend or foe system, allowing more accurate tracking, and will encrypt messages, including position and real-time kill notifications.

The internal P5 subsystem will become operational with Block 3F, which Lockheed is on track to deliver by the end of this year, Waylan Cain tells FlightGlobal at the Dubai air show. Although Lockheed has not rolled out the full 3F software, Cubic has already started delivering the internal P5 to the F-35 fleet.

Even in a training mission, Cubic’s podded configuration would ruin the F-35’s stealth signature. The internal subsystem not only preserves the Joint Strike Fighter’s low-observable characteristics but also becomes the only encrypted training system that will be fielded on a US military aircraft. With the exception of the F-35, the rest of the Pentagon’s inventory does not have a training system that encrypts messages.

Cubic demonstrated an encrypted pod on fourth-generation aircraft in 2015, but the US government is still examining the upgrade cycle for the P5 pod, Cain says. The government released a request for information for the capability earlier this year, but Cain does not expect a request for proposals this year.

“They have to go through their own acquisition cycle and make it a requirement for the system, but from a technical perspective the technology is there,” he says.

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