Lockheed Martin and the US Air Force (USAF) integrated the F-35 Lightning II’s target tracking data with the US Army’s Integrated Air and Missile Defense (IAMD) Battle Command System (IBCS), an important milestone for the stealth aircraft's ability to act as an elevated sensor.
The demonstration of the integration was done during a recent Orange Flag Evaluation in Palmdale, California and Fort Bliss, Texas, says Lockheed Martin. This was the first time that live F-35 tracking data was sent to IBCS via an F-35 ground station and F-35-IBCS adaptation kit, which were developed by Lockheed Martin, says the company.
“This demonstration represents a significant growth in capability for the Army IAMD programme and Army for multi-domain operations. The capability creates additional battle-space awareness, and the ability to track incoming targets and take action, if necessary,” says Scott Arnold, vice-president and deputy of integrated air and missile defense at Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control. “The F-35, with its advanced sensors and connectivity, is able to gather and seamlessly share critical information enabling greater joint force protection and a higher level of lethality of Army IAMD forces.”
The US Army aims to develop air and missile defence systems that can gather data from multiple sources, including aircraft. Adding the F-35 is seen as a major boost to that effort because the stealthy aircraft may be able to locate targets far beyond the sight of ground units without being observed by an enemy’s anti-aircraft defences.
The F-35 is increasingly seen by the US military as a valuable intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance vehicle due to its suite of powerful sensors. In 2016, the F-35 and the US Navy’s Aegis Combat System, a ship-based command and control system, successfully demonstrated integration.
The F-35 ground station has been relocated to White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico, for further integration and developmental testing, says Lockheed Martin.