F-35 Integrated in US Live-Fire, Multiple Target Drill

The demonstration of the advanced fighter’s capabilities to serve as an airborne sensor that gathers, analyzes and shares information with joint forces is seen as a “milestone”. Last month’s integration of the F-35 with a US Army command system enabled forces to more accurately monitor, assess and respond to the situation

F-35 fighter jets. Photo: Lockheed Martin

For the first time, state-of-the-art F-35 fighter jets have been used as sensors in a test of a US Army battle command system to detect, track and intercept airborne threats, in the latest demonstration of the F-35’s growing role in military operations.

Two F-35s from the US Air Force were used as part of the Integrated Air and Missile Defense Battle Command System (IBCS), Lockheed Martin said January 21 in a press release. The drill took place last month at the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico.

The linkage of the jets to the system enabled the participating forces to more accurately monitor and assess the situation, as well as engage airborne targets, the company said. Experimental equipment developed by Lockheed Martin, such as the Harvest Lightning Ground Station, was integrated in the IBCS test, according to the press release.

Lockheed Martin Vice President Greg Ulmer, general manager of the F-35 program, said, “This test validated the F-35’s capability to serve as an airborne sensor and extend the range of critical Integrated Air and Missile Defense interceptors.” According to Ulmer, the fighter’s connectivity and advanced sensors “enable it to gather, analyze and seamlessly share critical information with the joint fighting force.”

The test was also "a major milestone for multi-domain operations", according to Jay Pitman, vice president, Lower Tier Integrated Air and Missile Defense at Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control. He cited the “tremendous capability to defeat threats that are terrain-masked or beyond ground-based sensor detection capabilities due to terrain and curvature of the earth.”

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