Photo Credit: courtesy Lockheed Martin

Two pre-eminent weapon systems, the F-35 Lightning II and Aegis Weapon System, worked together for the first time during a live fire exercise. The joint Lockheed Martin, US Navy and US Marine Corps exercise was the first live fire missile event that successfully demonstrated the integration of the F-35 to support Naval Integrated Fire Control-Counter Air (NIFC-CA).

The Aegis Combat System is an integrated naval weapons system developed by the Missile and Surface Radar Division of RCA, and now produced by Lockheed Martin. It uses powerful computer and radar technology to track and guide weapons to destroy enemy targets.

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The F-35 Lightning II (“Adir”) represents the largest purchase in Israel’s history, and IAF Chief Brig. Gen. Tal Kelman sees the first 50 jets Israel will be receiving over the next few years as only a beginning. “We want to reach 75 jets,” Kelman told the IAF blog. “The Israeli F-35 is the first fifth generation fighter to arrive in the Middle East, and it will allow us to open a significant gap in our abilities when facing all of the elements in the area.”

During the Sept. 12 test, an unmodified US Marine Corps F-35B from the Marine Operational Test and Evaluation Squadron 1, acted as an elevated sensor and detected an over-the-horizon threat. The F-35B sent data through the aircraft’s Multi-Function Advanced Data Link (MADL) to a ground station connected to the Aegis Weapon System on the USS Desert Ship (LLS-1), a land-based ship. The target was subsequently engaged and intercepted by a Standard Missile 6.

“One of the key defining attributes of a 5th Generation fighter is the force multiplier effect it brings to joint operations through its foremost sensor fusion and external communications capabilities,” said Orlando Carvalho, executive vice president, Lockheed Martin Aeronautics. “Those attributes were successfully proven at White Sands Missile Range in a very realistic demonstration of distributed lethality leveraging a US Marine Corps F-35B and the US Navy’s Aegis Weapon System. This only scratches the surface of the potential warfighting capabilities F-35 aircraft will ultimately enable across our military forces.”

This capability, when fully realized, will significantly increase the warfighters’ situational awareness using Aegis and the F-35 together to better understand the maritime operational environment. Using any variant of the F-35 as a broad area sensor, the aircraft can significantly increase the Aegis capability to detect, track and engage.

“NIFC-CA is a game changer for the US Navy that extends the engagement range we can detect, analyze and intercept targets,” said Dale Bennett, executive vice president, Lockheed Martin Rotary and Mission Systems. “The F-35 and Aegis Weapon System demonstration brings us another step closer to realizing 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 F-35 Lightning II combines advanced stealth with fighter speed and agility, advanced mission systems, fully fused sensor information, network-enabled operations and cutting-edge sustainment. Three distinct variants of the F-35 will replace various aircraft for the US Air Force, Marine Corps and Navy, and 11 allied nations, including Israel.

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