Northrop Grumman Corporation is developing AN/APG-85, an advanced Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar for the F-35 Lightning II. Northrop Grumman currently manufactures the AN/APG-81 Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) fire control radar, the cornerstone to the F-35 Lightning II’s sensor suite.
The AN/APG-85 is an advanced multifunction sensor that will be compatible with all variants of the F-35 Lightning II aircraft and will be capable of defeating current and projected adversarial air and surface threats.
The development and integration of APG-85 will incorporate some of the latest technologies available and help ensure air superiority. This advanced sensor will provide unparalleled battlespace situational awareness that translates into platform lethality, effectiveness and survivability.
Northrop Grumman plays a key role in the development, modernization, sustainment and production of the F-35 Lightning II. In addition to producing the AN/APG-85 and AN/APG-81 radars, the company manufactures the center fuselage and wing skins for the aircraft, produces and maintains several sensor systems, avionics, mission systems and mission-planning software, pilot and maintainer training systems courseware, electronic warfare simulation test capability, and low-observable technologies.
The F-35 Joint Program Office (JPO) and Lockheed Martin have finalized the contract for the production and delivery for up to 398 F-35s for $30 billion, including U.S., international partners and Foreign Military Sales (FMS) aircraft in Lots 15 and 16, with the option for Lot 17.
«The F-35 delivers unsurpassed capability to our warfighters and operational commanders», said Air Force Lieutenant General Mike Schmidt, program executive officer, F-35 Joint Program Office. «This contract strikes the right balance between what’s best for the U.S. taxpayers, military services, allies and our foreign military sales customers. The F-35 is the world’s premier multi-mission, 5th-generation weapon system, and the modernized Block 4 capabilities these new aircraft will bring to bear strengthens not just capability, but interoperability with our allies and partners across land, sea, air and cyber domains».
The agreement includes 145 aircraft for Lot 15, 127 for Lot 16, and up to 126 for the Lot 17 contract option, including the first F-35 Lightning II aircraft for Belgium, Finland and Poland.
Lot 15-17 aircraft will be the first to include Technical Refresh-3 (TR-3), the modernized hardware needed to power Block 4 capabilities. TR-3 includes a new integrated core processor with greater computing power, a panoramic cockpit display and an enhanced memory unit.
These aircraft will add to the growing global fleet, currently at 894 aircraft after 141 deliveries this year. The F-35 Lightning II team was on track to meet the commitment of 148 aircraft as planned; however, due to a temporary pause in flight operations, which is still in effect, necessary acceptance flight tests could not be performed.
The finalized contract caps off a year of the F-35 Lightning II delivering combat-proven airpower around the world and continued international growth. This year, Finland, Germany and Switzerland signed Letters of Offer and Acceptance (LOAs) as an important step in their procurement of F-35 Lightning II aircraft.
«Continuing to add new countries to our global F-35 fleet further validates the capability and affordability of this aircraft in providing 21st Century Security to nations and allies», said Bridget Lauderdale, Lockheed Martin vice president and general manager, F-35 Lightning II Program. «There is simply no other aircraft that can do all that the F-35 does to defeat and deter even the most advanced threats».
F-35 Lightning II program participants currently include 17 countries. To date, more than 1,870 pilots and 13,500 maintainers have been trained, and the F-35 Lightning II fleet has surpassed more than 602,000 cumulative flight hours.
On July 30, the U.S government submitted the Request for Proposal (RFP) response for the Lockheed Martin built F-35 Lightning II to Canada in support of their Future Fighter Capability Project.
Canada has been a valued partner since the inception of the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) competition. Canadian industry plays an integral role in the global F-35 Lightning II supply chain and has gained significant technical expertise over the past 15-plus year involvement in the F-35 Lightning II production.
«We are extremely proud of our longstanding partnership with Canada, which has played a key role in the F-35’s development», said Greg Ulmer, F-35 Lightning II Program executive vice president. «The 5th Generation F-35 Lightning II would transform the Royal Canadian Air Force fleet and deliver the capabilities necessary to safeguard Canadian skies. The F-35’s unique mix of stealth and sensor technology will enable the Royal Canadian Air Force to modernize their contribution to North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) operations, ensure Arctic sovereignty and meet increasingly sophisticated global threats».
The program will continue to bring manufacturing and production opportunities to Canada, with an estimated 150,000 jobs supported over the life of the program. The F-35 Lightning II program connects Canadian industry to a global supply chain supporting a growing fleet that will deliver more than 3,200 aircraft and delivers sustainment well past 2060.
To date, the F-35 Lightning II operates from 24 bases worldwide. More than 1,040 pilots and over 9,340 maintainers are trained. Nine nations operate the F-35 Lightning II from their home soil and six services have employed F-35s in combat operations.
Lockheed Martin and the F-35 Lightning II Joint Program Office delivered the 500th F-35. In February, the F-35 Lightning II enterprise surpassed 250,000 flight hours.
The 500th production aircraft is a U.S. Air Force F-35A Lightning II, to be delivered to the Burlington Air National Guard Base in Vermont. The 500 hundred F-35s include 354 F-35A Lightning II Conventional TakeOff and Landing (CTOL) variants, 108 F-35B Lightning II Short TakeOff/Vertical Landing (STOVL) variants and 38 F-35C Lightning II Carrier (CV) variants for the U.S. and international customers. The 250,000 flight hours include all F-35s in the fleet comprised of developmental test jets, training, operational, U.S. and international aircraft.
«These milestones are a testament to the talent and dedication of the joint government, military and industry teams», said Greg Ulmer, Lockheed Martin, vice president and general manager of the F-35 Lightning II program. «The F-35 is delivering an unprecedented 5th Generation combat capability to the warfighter at the cost of a 4th Generation legacy aircraft».
The F-35 Lightning II operates from 23 bases worldwide. More than 985 pilots and over 8,890 maintainers are trained. Nine nations use the F-35 Lightning II from their home soil, eight services have declared Initial Operating Capability and four services have employed F-35s Lightning II in combat operations.
Lockheed Martin delivered the 134th F-35 Lightning II aircraft for the year on December 30, 2019, exceeding the joint government and industry 2019 delivery goal of 131 aircraft.
One hundred and thirty-four deliveries represent a 47% increase from 2018 and nearly a 200 percent production increase from 2016. Next year, Lockheed Martin plans to deliver 141 F-35s Lightning II and is prepared to increase production volume year-over-year to hit peak production in 2023.
«This achievement is a testament to the readiness of the full F-35 enterprise to ramp to full-rate production and we continue to focus on improving on-time deliveries across the entire weapons system», said Greg Ulmer, Lockheed Martin vice president and general manager of the F-35 Lightning II program. «We have met our annual delivery targets three years in a row and continue to increase production rates, improve efficiencies and reduce costs. The F-35 is the most capable fighter jet in the world, and we’re now delivering the 5th Generation weapon system at a cost equal to or lower than a less capable 4th Generation legacy aircraft».
The 134th aircraft is a Short Takeoff and Vertical Landing (STOVL) model for the United States Marine Corps. In 2019, deliveries included 81 F-35s Lightning II for the United States, 30 for international partner nations and 23 for Foreign Military Sales customers.
Unit and Sustainment Costs Decrease, Readiness Improving
Using lessons learned, process efficiencies, production automation, facility and tooling upgrades, supply chain initiatives and more – the F-35 Lightning II enterprise continues to significantly improve efficiency and reduce costs.
The price of an F-35A Lightning II is now $77.9 million, meeting the $80 million goal a year earlier than planned.
The F-35’s Lightning II mission readiness and sustainment costs continue to improve with the global fleet averaging greater than 65% mission capable rates, and operational squadrons consistently performing near 75%.
Lockheed Martin’s sustainment cost per aircraft per year has also decreased four consecutive years, and more than 35% since 2015.
Program Maturity and Economic Impact
With more than 490 aircraft operating from 21 bases around the globe, the F-35 Lightning II plays a critical role in today’s global security environment.
Today, 975 pilots and 8,585 maintainers are trained, and the F-35 Lightning II fleet has surpassed more than 240,000 cumulative flight hours. Eight nations have F-35s Lightning II operating from a base on their home soil, eight services have declared Initial Operating Capability and four services have employed F-35s Lightning II in combat operations.
In addition to strengthening global security and partnerships, the F-35 Lightning II provides economic stability to the U.S. and international partners by creating jobs, commerce and security, and contributing to the global trade balance. Thousands of men and women in the U.S. and around the world build the F-35 Lightning II. With more than 1,400 suppliers in 47 states and Puerto Rico, the F-35 Lightning II Program supports more than 220,000 jobs.
Northrop Grumman Corporation has delivered its 500th AN/APG-81 fire control radar for the F-35 Lightning II. The Northrop Grumman AN/APG-81 active electronically scanned array is the cornerstone of the F-35’s advanced sensor suite, providing unparalleled battlespace situational awareness that translates into platform lethality, effectiveness and survivability.
«As a principal member of the Lockheed Martin-led F-35 industry team, our continued investment in facilities and equipment, production enhancements in process and design, and expanded supply chain capability through second sourcing helped reach this milestone», said Chris Fitzpatrick, director, F-35 programs, Northrop Grumman. «The 500th delivery of this top-of-the-line fighter radar was made possible by our continuous focus on quality and excellence across our company».
The AN/APG-81 radar has long-range active and passive air-to-air and air-to-ground modes that support a wide range of demanding missions. These modes are complemented by an array of stealth features as well as electronic warfare and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance functions.
Northrop Grumman plays a key role in the development, modernization, sustainment and production of the F-35. In addition to producing the AN/APG-81 radar, the company manufactures the center fuselage and wing skins for the aircraft, produces and maintains several sensor systems, avionics, mission systems and mission-planning software, pilot and maintainer training systems courseware, electronic warfare simulation test capability, and low-observable technologies.
On February 21, 2019, Northrop Grumman Corporation has completed the 500th center fuselage for the F-35 Lightning II – ahead of schedule.
«We deliver an F-35 center fuselage every 36 hours and I am very proud to say we have made all our deliveries since the inception of the program», said Frank Carus, vice president and F-35 Lightning II program manager, Northrop Grumman. «Our dedicated team works closely with the customer and suppliers to improve quality and affordability in support of the warfighter».
Designated AU-18, the 500th F-35 Lightning II center fuselage is for a conventional takeoff and landing variant for the Royal Australian Air Force. Northrop Grumman began production on the AU-18 center fuselage in June 2018 and completed work on February 21. Northrop Grumman has been producing center fuselages for all three F-35 Lightning II variants since May 2004.
«We have set the standard for the production of military aircraft», said Kevin Mickey, sector vice president and general manager, military aircraft systems, Northrop Grumman. «Our teams and suppliers are constantly finding better, more affordable ways to deliver a superior product on-time, at-cost and, as with this center fuselage, ahead of schedule. When you couple this level of commitment with advanced manufacturing technologies, it’s just a win-win situation for us, our customer and the warfighter».
A core structure of the F-35 Lightning II aircraft, the center fuselage is designed and produced on Northrop Grumman’s integrated assembly line, a state-of-the-art facility supported by technologies exclusive to or pioneered by Northrop Grumman bringing together robotics, autonomous systems, virtual 3D and predictive automation to the forefront of center fuselage production.
Lockheed Martin is the industry lead for the F-35 Lightning II program and Northrop Grumman plays a key role in the development, modernization, sustainment and production of the F-35 Lightning II. In addition to producing the center fuselage and wing skins for the aircraft, the company develops, produces and maintains several sensor systems, avionics, mission systems and mission-planning software, pilot and maintainer training systems courseware, electronic warfare simulation test capability, and low-observable technologies.
Northrop Grumman Corporation’s center fuselage of the F-35 Lightning II recently entered full-rate production. This milestone marks the beginning of a 1.5-day Production Interval (PI) meaning a center fuselage will be produced every day and a half.
«Our customers and warfighters deserve the best», said Frank Carus, vice president and F-35 program manager, Northrop Grumman. «Every efficiency, every minute, and every dollar we save reduces costs and speeds up the F-35’s availability to the warfighter. Achieving this pace is a testament to our employees, suppliers and teammates’ commitment to quality and affordability».
Carus also noted that the 400th F-35 center fuselage was completed and delivered to Lockheed Martin last month and production of the 500th F-35 center fuselage began last week.
«This pace of military aircraft production has not been seen in decades», said Kevin Mickey, sector vice president and general manager, military aircraft systems, Northrop Grumman. «Our revolutionary approach on the integrated assembly line pairs advanced technology with data-driven analytics to manufacture advanced aircraft while delivering top quality products on time, and often ahead of schedule».
A core structure of the F-35 Lightning II aircraft, the center fuselage is produced on Northrop Grumman’s Integrated Assembly Line (IAL) at its Palmdale Aircraft Integration Center of Excellence. The IAL is a state-of-the-art facility supported by technologies exclusive to or pioneered by Northrop Grumman bringing together robotics, autonomous systems, virtual 3D and predictive automation to the forefront of center fuselage production.
«As we prepare for full rate production of the F-35, many of our teammates and suppliers are now transitioning to full rate, aligning their production lead times with the F-35 final assembly that supports increased warfighter demand», said Eric Branyan, vice president of F-35 supply chain at Lockheed Martin. «Northrop Grumman plays a critical role in the F-35 enterprise and we look forward to continuing to reduce costs, improve efficiencies and deliver transformational F-35 capabilities for the men and women in uniform».
Northrop Grumman plays a key role in the development and production of the F-35 weapons system. In addition to producing the jet’s center fuselage and wing skins for the aircraft, the company develops, produces and maintains several sensor systems, avionics, mission systems and mission-planning software, pilot and maintainer training systems courseware, electronic warfare simulation test capability, and low-observable technologies.
Preparing the F-35 Lightning II, the U.S. Navy’s most advanced fighter, for missions in today’s complex electromagnetic spectrum environment requires an equally advanced test environment. Northrop Grumman’s multispectral testing solution recreates the most accurate mission-like conditions in the laboratory and on the range. Recently, Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division (NAWCWD) Point Mugu took delivery of the most sophisticated test environment the company has ever created.
The environment consists of Northrop Grumman’s Combat Electromagnetic Environment Simulator (CEESIM), Signal Measurement System (SMS) and other stimulators, all under control of the Synchronizer Controller System (SCS).
«Keeping the F-35’s systems ready requires a fully integrated test environment like we have developed with CEESIM, SMS and SCS», said Joe Downie, director, land and avionics C4ISR division, Northrop Grumman Mission Systems. «These systems work together to provide the environment complexity and density, measurement and analysis capability, and test control capability necessary to evaluate the F-35 in a realistic mission scenario».
At the center of the environment is the CEESIM, which simulates multiple, simultaneous Radio Frequency (RF) emitters as well as static and dynamic platform attributes to faithfully model true-to-war conditions. CEESIM’s Advanced Pulse Generation high speed direct digital synthesizer technology is used to generate realistic electronic warfare mission scenarios.
The SMS provides wide bandwidth signal measurement, recording and analysis capability which is used to validate the test environment and evaluate the system under test performance.
The SCS provides the tools to program an integrated multispectral test scenario, including threat radars, communications signals, radar and Electro-Optical/InfraRed (EO/IR) signatures. The SCS also manages the execution of the scenario by all of the stimulators to ensure a coherent multispectral test environment.
The F-35 program has accomplished the final developmental test flight of the System Development and Demonstration (SDD) phase of the program.
«Completing F-35 SDD flight test is the culmination of years of hard work and dedication from the joint government and industry team», said Vice Adm. Mat Winter, F-35 Program Executive Officer. «Since the first flight of AA-1 in 2006, the developmental flight test program has operated for more than 11 years mishap-free, conducting more than 9,200 sorties, accumulating over 17,000 flight hours, and executing more than 65,000 test points to verify the design, durability, software, sensors, weapons capability and performance for all three F-35 variants. Congratulations to our F-35 Test Team and the broader F-35 Enterprise for delivering this new powerful and decisive capability to the warfighter».
The final SDD flight occurred 11 April 2018 at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Maryland when Navy test aircraft CF-2 completed a mission to collect loads data while carrying external 2,000-pound/907-kg GBU-31 Joint Direct Attack Munitions (JDAM) and AIM-9X Sidewinder heat-seeking missiles.
From flight sciences to mission systems testing, the critical work completed by F-35 test teams cleared the way for the Block 3F capability to be delivered to the operational warfighter. More than a thousand SDD flight test engineers, maintainers, pilots and support personnel took the three variants of the F-35 to their full flight envelope to test aircraft performance and flying qualities. The test team conducted 6 at-sea detachments and performed more than 1,500 vertical landing tests on the F-35B variant. The developmental flight test team completed 183 Weapon Separation Tests; 46 Weapons Delivery Accuracy tests; 33 Mission Effectiveness tests, which included numerous multi-ship missions of up to eight F-35s against advanced threats.
«The F-35 flight test program represents the most comprehensive, rigorous and the safest developmental flight test program in aviation history», said Greg Ulmer, Lockheed Martin’s vice president and general manager of the F-35 program. «The joint government and industry team demonstrated exceptional collaboration and expertise, and the results have given the men and women who fly the F-35 great confidence in its transformational capability».
Developmental flight test is a key component of the F-35 program’s SDD phase, which will formally be completed following an Operational Test and Evaluation and a Department of Defense decision to go into full-rate aircraft production.
While SDD required flight test is now complete, F-35 flight testing continues in support of phased capability improvements and modernization of the F-35 air system. This effort is part of the Joint Program Office’s Continuous Capability Development and Delivery (C2D2) framework, which will provide timely, affordable incremental warfighting capability improvements to maintain joint air dominance against evolving threats to the United States and its allies.
With stealth technology, advanced sensors, weapons capacity and 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, analyze and share data is a powerful force multiplier that enhances all airborne, surface and ground-based assets in the battlespace and enables men and women in uniform to execute their mission and return home safe.