Lockheed Martin has announced an improved version of its electro-optical targeting system for the F-35, called Advanced EOTS, just months after the long-delayed fifth-generation fighter was declared fit for combat with the Marine Corps.

The new sensor developed internally by Lockheed is similarly sized and shaped to fit neatly into the same forward undercarriage position on the F-35, and the first prototype is expected next year.

The new and improved capabilities include short-wave infrared, high-definition television, infrared marker and superior image detector resolution than the baseline EOTS.

Even though the company’s current targeting systems, which combines forward-looking infrared and infrared search and track for precise air-to-air and air-to-ground targeting, was considered revolutionary in the 2000s, more than 15 years have passed since it entered development and the technology and threat has moved on.

The company says the current sensor, miniaturised for low drag and stealth, meets all the contractual specifications required by the Pentagon. ut the new system offer the F-35 programme a significant leap in terms of target recognition and detection capability.

“Threats to our warfighters continue to evolve, and we have invested to develop advanced technology to combat those threats,” the company tells Flightglobal. “Our investment in Advanced EOTS is consistent with the timeline set forth by the F-35 Joint Program Office, which includes follow-on development for F-35 software and hardware in Block 4.”

The announcement comes as the Pentagon beds down what new technologies and weapons should be included in the Block 4 upgrade – set to roll in increments from 2019 to 2025.

Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control says it has delivered 170 baseline EOTS sensors to date from its sensor and datalink production facility in Orlando, Florida, and the advanced system has been designed internally “with significant investment from Lockheed Martin and its suppliers”.

It would be a further upgrade option purchased at the discretion of the DOD and international F-35 partners and customers.

“Due to its similarity in shape and size to EOTS, Advanced EOTS can be installed with minimal changes to the F-35’s interface,” Lockheed said in a 10 September news release. “It will be housed behind the same low-drag window, maintaining the F-35’s stealthy profile. Advanced EOTS production will be completed on the current EOTS line.”

Source: FlightGlobal.com