F-35 Joint Strike Fighter operators Australia and the UK have opened an F-35 Reprogramming Laboratory at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida that will enable the fifth-generation fighter to be a “smart” aircraft.
As explained by Australian defense minister Linda Reynolds, the lab will be responsible for producing mission data files (MDFs) for Australian and UK F-35s which compile information about the operating environment and assets in an area, before being loaded onto the aircraft pre-flight using a portable hard drive.
“Combined with the aircraft’s advance sensor suite, this provides the pilot with a clearer battlespace picture,” Reynolds said.
“Today’s opening is a key milestone in the delivery of this program to the Australian Defence Force.”
The Reprogramming Laboratory will support Australian and UK F-35s by developing, verifying, validating and issuing F-35 MDFs for Australian and UK-fielded F-35s.
Both countries are co-funding and supporting the capability under a 50/50 funding arrangement.
The Australian F-35A is expected to achieve initial operating capability (IOC) in December 2020, and final operating capability in late 2023. The UK declared an IOC for its F-35B (short take off/vertical landing) variant jets in 2019.