Collins Aerospace Australia Involvement in F-35 Program
(Source: Australian Department of Defence; issued April 29, 2019)
A series of videos showcasing Australian industry participation in the global F-35 Program have been produced to highlight the partnership between Defence and industry as the transformational Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) capability is delivered to Australia.

Collins Aerospace – formerly known as Rockwell Collins – is a key player in the global F-35 Program, manufacturing about 40 per cent of the F-35 Distributed Aperture System (DAS) optical assemblies for DAS prime contractor Northrop Grumman.

The company first sought work on the F-35 in 2007 by engaging with its US-based parent company and Northrop Grumman to investigate opportunities to leverage off its existing capabilities.

Nick Gibbs, Vice President and General Manager Simulation and Training at Collins Aerospace, said the F-35 Program had helped the company establish new and world-leading capabilities.

“This has been a great motivator for the entire Australian team,” Mr Gibbs said.

The DAS is a 360-degree situational awareness system that warns of incoming aircraft and missile threats. It also provides day/night vision, fire-control capability and precision-tracking of friendly aircraft for tactical manoeuvring.

Former Air Force electronics technician and Collins Aerospace’s DAS team leader, Jonathan Guy, said working on the fifth-generation F-35 Program was incredibly exciting.

“We’re at the forefront of technology,” Mr Guy said. “The complete DAS capability supplies imagery to the pilot through the Helmet Mounted Display System (HDMS), which enables him or her to look at targets and terrain through the floor and wings of the aircraft by both day and night for targeting purposes.

“Collins Aerospace USA also build and maintain the HMDS, which enables the pilot to be more integrated with the aircraft’s avionics. This system gives F-35 pilots unsurpassed situational awareness by displaying critical flight information throughout the entire mission.

“The HMDS serves as a virtual heads up display, enabling the F-35 to be the first tactical fighter in 50 years to operate without a traditional heads up display system.”

Six technicians work on the DAS optical assemblies at Collins Aerospace’s site in Lane Cove West, NSW. As a result of participation in the F-35 Program, new policies and procedures have been developed supporting steady growth of the production line, while the company has also invested in the skills, development and training of its people.

“One of my team members started out in the warehouse and over time he came on board as a support technician, picking up the skills really well – now he’s a fully qualified technician,” Mr Guy said.

Although the F-35 Program work is only a small part of Collins Aerospace Australia’s revenue, the company plans to continue to improve its performance and drive cost out of the production of the products it manufactures for the F-35.

Mr Guy enjoys working with defence customers. “Working on the F-35 Program is a great opportunity to help support the defence of Australia and work with cutting-edge technology,” he said.

“With new technology, we can contribute to the safety and precision of military operations and also help local industry grow – it’s amazing to be involved.”

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