Aircraft maintenance company Rockwell Collins Australia has marked a significant achievement in its work on the global F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program.
The firm celebrated the assembly of the 100th Optical Assembly for the F-35 electro-optic distributed aperture system (DAS) at its Sydney facilities.
The DAS is a multifunction infrared system providing passive, spherical battlespace awareness for F-35 pilots. It simultaneously detects and tracks aircraft and missiles in every direction, as well as providing visual imagery for day and night navigation and targeting purposes.
The imagery projected onto the pilot's helmet-mounted display provides the capability to look at targets and terrain through the floor and wings of the aircraft
The DAS works in conjunction with the Northrop Grumman AN/APG-81 active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar and other on-board systems to give F-35 pilots an unprecedented degree of situational awareness.
Rockwell Collins Australia is set to produce more than 7,000 of these assemblies across the life of the F-35 program, representing at least 40 per cent of global production.
Representatives from the Australian company said they are expecting to eventually represent 50 per cent of global production, with the other 50 per cent to be represented by their sister company in the US.
The company is also expecting to bring in five to 10 new technicians at their Sydney facilities as work on the project ramps up.
Minister for Defence Industry Christopher Pyne was there to witness the 100th production and commemorate the achievement.
"Rockwell Collins Australia’s performance on the JSF program is proof Australian manufacturing can compete with the best in the world," Minister Pyne said.
"Importantly, Australia’s ambition to grow the local defence industry is highlighted by this milestone.
"This game-changing technology sets the F-35 ahead of 4th generation fighter aircraft through its sensor fusion capability."
The minister was complimentary of the contribution the Australian company has made to representing and building Australian defence capabilities on a global platform.
"Over the past decade Rockwell Collins [has] focused on building capability in Australia to support the F-35," said Minister Pyne.
"In addition to this contribution, Rockwell Collins Australia has successfully partnered with BAE Systems Australia and Northrop Grumman Australia for assignment of regional maintenance and repair responsibilities for some F-35 avionic components.
"The company is also planning to increase its footprint to include a manufacturing capability for critical test equipment required by Australia and partner countries.
"The skills and expertise that Rockwell Collins Australia has built are integral to the local capability they’ve developed for the broader Australian Defence Force, with the Army’s Digital Terminal Control System another example of the company’s contribution to Defence capability."