FORT WORTH, Texas --- Lockheed Martin has selected Raytheon to develop and deliver the next generation Distributed Aperture System (DAS) for the F-35 fighter jet. The result of a Lockheed Martin-led competition, the selection will enhance capability and reduce cost.
The F-35’s Distributed Aperture System collects and sends high resolution, real-time imagery to the pilot’s helmet from six infrared cameras mounted around the aircraft, allowing pilots to see the environment around them – day or night. With the ability to detect and track threats from any angle, the F-35 DAS gives pilots unprecedented situational awareness of the battlespace.
“The supply chain competition for the next generation F-35 Distributed Aperture System resulted in significant cost savings, reliability and performance improvements,” said Greg Ulmer, Lockheed Martin Vice President and General Manager of the F-35 program. “We are aggressively pursuing cost reduction across the F-35 enterprise and this initiative is a clear demonstration of our unrelenting commitment to reduce costs and deliver transformational capabilities for the warfighter.”
Reduce Costs, Increased Performance
The Raytheon-built DAS will be integrated into F-35 aircraft starting with Lot 15 aircraft, expected to begin deliveries in 2023. The next generation DAS system is estimated to generate the following results compared to the current system:
-- More than $3 billion in life cycle cost savings
* Approximately 45 percent reduction in unit recurring cost
* Greater than 50 percent reduction in operations and sustainment cost
-- 5 times more reliability
-- 2 times performance capability improvement
-- The new system will also indirectly benefit aircraft readiness and service manpower requirements.
“Raytheon’s solution delivers next generation capability for the fifth generation F-35,” said Roy Azevedo vice president of Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Systems at Raytheon Space and Airborne Systems. “Our focus is on providing pilots every tactical advantage imaginable while ensuring taxpayers receive the best value possible.”
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 enhancing all airborne, surface and ground-based assets in the battlespace and enabling men and women in uniform to execute their mission and come home safe.
(EDITOR’S NOTE: In it important to note that Northrop Grumman, the incumbent DAS supplier, declined to bid for the next contract. Northrop spokesman Brian Humphreys said Wednesday that the company “concluded that it wasn’t the right business deal for us.”
Reading the above Lockheed Martin press release, the inescapable conclusion is that the DAS flying on all 300 F-35s delivered to date is expensive to operate, unreliable, & low performance.
But Raytheon’s new DAS will only equip aircraft delivered from 2023 onwards, so all aircraft delivered until then (we estimate at least 500 more, for a grand total of over 800) will continue to be fitted with Northrop’s obsolete DAS.
Furthermore, as it doesn’t yet exist, all of Lockheed’s promises of performance, cost and benefits remain to be proven – and given the F-35’s record of delivering on its promises, the odds are not very good.
All F-35s coming off the production line must be upgraded after delivery to bring them up to scratch, so the cost of Raytheon's new DAS will increase upgrade costs at a time when USAF may not upgrade its 108 earliest a/c because it doesn't have enough the money.
Finally, one can imagine how thrilled foreign buyers will be when told that their in-service F-35s, and all those that will be delivered until 2023 – including, for example, the 48 for the Royal Air Force -- are fitted with an inferior DAS that needs replacement, for which they will have to pay extra.)