Lockheed Martin has selected Harris Corporation to develop and deliver the next-generation integrated core processor (ICP) for the F-35 fighter jet. The Lockheed Martin-led competition within the F-35 supply chain will significantly reduce cost and enhance capability.
The ICP acts as the brains of the F-35, processing data for the aircraft’s communications, sensors, electronic warfare, guidance and control, cockpit and helmet displays.
The new ICP is a key element of the planned 'Technology Refresh 3' modernisation that takes advantage of fast evolving computing power to ensure the F-35 remains ahead of evolving threats. Additional elements in the tech refresh include the Panoramic Cockpit Display Electronic Unit and Aircraft Memory System, which were also recompeted and awarded to Harris last year.
Greg Ulmer, Lockheed Martin vice president and general manager of the F-35 program, said, "We are aggressively pursuing cost reduction across the F-35 enterprise and, after conducting a thorough review and robust competition, we’re confident the next-generation integrated core processor will reduce costs and deliver transformational capabilities for the warfighter. The next generation integrated core processor for the F-35 will have positive benefits for all customers in terms of life cycle cost, capability, reliability and more."
The Harris-built ICP will be integrated into F-35 aircraft starting with Lot 15 aircraft, expected to begin deliveries in 2023. The ICP system is targeted to generate the following results compared with the current system:
- 75 per cent reduction in unit cost;
- 25 times increase in computing power to support planned capability enhancements;
- Greater software stability, higher reliability, and increased diagnostics resulting in lower sustainment costs; and
- An open system architecture to enable the flexibility to add, upgrade and update future capabilities.
"The new F-35 ICP will pave the way for system scalability well into the future. Open systems are the future of avionics and Harris has invested substantial R&D to deliver more affordable and higher performance solutions than would have been possible using proprietary technology," said Ed Zoiss, president, Harris Electronic Systems.
The ICP selection comes on the heels of Lockheed Martin’s selection of Raytheon for the next-gen distributed aperture system, which will reduce life cycle costs by more than $3 billion, enhance reliability and increased capability.
"With production ramping up and the operational fleet growing fast, we are looking at every layer of our global supply chain to find opportunities to increase capacity, reduce production and sustainment costs, improve parts reliability and enhance capabilities," said Ulmer.
In addition to competition, the company is transitioning several F-35 suppliers to longer-term performance-based logistics contracts to enhance parts availability and reduce sustainment costs. Previously under annual contracts, the new five-year PBLs allow each supplier to make longer-term investments and actions to reduce costs and improve efficiencies.
With radar evading stealth technology, advanced sensors, enhanced weapons capacity, supersonic speed and superior range, the F-35 is the most lethal, survivable and connected fighter aircraft ever built. More than a fighter jet, the F-35’s ability to collect, analyse and share data is a powerful force multiplier enhancing all airborne, surface and ground-based assets in the battlespace and enabling men and women in uniform to execute their mission and come home safe.
Headquartered in Bethesda, Maryland, Lockheed Martin is a global security and aerospace company that employs approximately 100,000 people worldwide and is principally engaged in the research, design, development, manufacture, integration and sustainment of advanced technology systems, products and services.
Harris Corporation is a leading technology innovator, solving customers’ toughest mission-critical challenges by providing solutions that connect, inform and protect. Harris supports government and commercial customers in more than 100 countries and has approximately $6 billion in annual revenue.
Australia is spending about $17 billion to buy 72 fighters of the F-35A variant, with the aircraft due to reach IOC by December 2020. Australia’s first six F-35As are currently operating at the international Pilot Training Centre at Luke Air Force Base in Arizona, with four more aircraft expected to be delivered by the end of this year.
Two of Australia’s F-35A aircraft are scheduled to arrive for permanent basing at RAAF Base Williamtown near Newcastle in December this year.