The F-35 and Aegis Weapon System worked together for the first time this week during a live fire exercise, with the F-35 passing sensor data to another platform which then engaged the target.

Using the F-35 as a broad area sensor can significantly increase a warships ability to detect, track and engage a target.

An unmodified US Marine Corps F-35B from the Marine Operational Test and Evaluation Squadron, based in Edwards Air Force Base, acted as an elevated sensor to detect an over-the-horizon threat.

The aircraft then sent data through its Multi-Function Advanced Data Link to a ground station connected to USS Desert Ship, a land-based launch facility designed to simulate a ship at sea.

Using the latest Aegis Weapon System Baseline 9.C1 and a Standard Missile 6, the system successfully detected and engaged the target.

The 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).

Dale Bennett, executive vice president, Lockheed Martin Rotary and Mission Systems said:

“NIFC-CA is a game changer for the US Navy that extends the engagement range we can detect, analyze and intercept targets. The F-35 and Aegis Weapon System demonstration brings us another step closer to realising the true potential and power of the worldwide network of these complex systems to protect and support warfighters, the home front and US allies.”

In a press release, the US Navy said:

“While the goal of this test was to prove the compatibility of these systems within existing NIFC-CA architecture, this future capability will extend the Navy’s engagement range to detect, analyze and intercept targets in operational settings. 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.”

Anant Patel, major program manager for future combat systems in the Program Executive Office for Integrated Warfare Systems said:

“This test was a great opportunity to assess the Navy’s ability to take unrelated technologies and successfully close the fire control loop as well as merge anti-surface and anti-air weapons into a single kill web that shares common sensors, links and weapons.”

The test was a collaborative effort across the Navy and Marine Corps, White Sands Missile Range and industry partners leveraging a US Marine Corps F-35B and the U.S. Navy’s Aegis Weapon System to support the distributed lethality concept in the Fleet.

Lt. Col. Richard Rusnok, VMX-1 F-35B detachment officer in charge said:

“This test represents the start of our exploration into the interoperability of the F-35B with other naval assets. We believe the F-35B will drastically increase the situational awareness and lethality of the naval forces with which it will deploy in the very near future.”

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