Research Participation in the F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter Program


  1. Introduction
  2. Background on the JSF Project
  3. JSF Part of a System
  4. Research Areas
  5. Further Information on the JSF

    See Also

  6. Other Information Technology
  7. Home


JSF Image from Lockheed Martin Corporation

The Australian Government is looking to replace the Royal Australian Air Force's F/A-18 Hornet and F-111 military fighter aircraft with the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II, Joint Strike Fighter (JSF). In 2002 joined the System Development and Demonstration (SDD) phase of the JSF program. This allows Australian industry to compete for JSF work, and also Australian researchers to assist in the project.

Background on the JSF Project

The Joint Strike Fighter is being designed by Lockheed Martin (USA) with BAE Systems (UK). Three variants are being developed:

It will be a multi-role strike fighter (a plane with a strong emphasis on close air support and tactical bombing as well as being capable of air-to-air combat), and will make considerable use of stealth technology in that it will be almost undetectable (stealthy) to X-band radars (short-range tracking systems) in the forward hemisphere but not particularly stealthy in the rear hemisphere and not stealthy to L-band radars (long-range search systems) in either hemisphere.

From: "F-35 Joint Strike Fighter", Wikipedia, 2006

The aircraft will conduct net centric operations, using information fusion, with features such as a wide screen 8 by 20 inch cockpit display. Radios on the F-35 can be software programmed to provide a wide range of communications capabilities (including Single Channel Ground and Airborne Radio System - SINCGARS, HAVE QUICK and JPALS).

The JSF Program is expected to deliver about 2600 aircraft to the US and UK alone and potentially a further 1000+ aircraft to the current international Partners and third party customers. The JSF is the first international collaborative development program for a US military aircraft. As well as the US, there are eight international Partners participating in the System Development and Demonstration (SDD) phase of the Program.

Australia is expected to acquire up to 100 JSF aircraft to replace the capability currently provided by the F-111 and F/A-18. To achieve first deliveries in 2012, Australia's order for aircraft needs to be placed in 2008.

From: "F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) Program - Fact Sheet", Australian Department of Defence, May 2006"

JSF Part of a System

More so than previous aircraft, the F-35 is intended to be part of a system. This allows for areas of research by companies, research organizations and universities beyond those previously involved in aerospace and defence applications. In particular the JSF project has a high information technology component, with its integrated sensor suite for fused situational awareness. The integration of the F-35 into a Command, Control, Communications, Computers and Intelligence (C4I) will require research in a number of disciplines.

"On the surface, Network Centric Warfare (NCW) is a simple concept that involves the linkage of engagement systems to sensors through networks and the sharing of information between force elements. Consequently, much of the discussion and early development of the concept revolved around connecting information systems and creating software applications that allow people to use the available data. However, NCW is also based on the idea that information is only useful if it allows people to act more effectively: this makes the human dimension fundamental to NCW."

From: "Science and Technology for Australian Network-Centric Warfare: Function, Form and Fit", Tim McKenna, Terry Moon, Richard Davis and Leoni Warne, Australian Defence Force Journal, July 2006

The US version of the F-35 is intended to use Link-16 protocols to communicate with other aircraft and Air Defense Assets, satellites for Beyond Line of Sight communication, PHM Datalinks to ships, and the Joint Variable Message Format (JVMF), Joint Tactical Radio System (JTRS), to army land elements.

... the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) is merely the tip of the iceberg. Indeed, it is misleading to consider the JSF in isolation from other air capabilities, notably airborne early warning and control aircraft (AEW&C), the Jindalee Over-The-Horizon system, air-to-air refuelling platforms, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and the network of forward-operating bases situated across northern Australia.

A Perspective on Australian Grand Strategy, General Peter Cosgrove, Australian Army Journal, Land Warfare Studies Centre, 2005, Volume III, Number 1

JSF and Wedgetail AEW&C Aircraft

Boeing Wedgetail photo from Wikipedia

Boeing Wedgetail

A major task for Australia will be to integrate the F-35 to the new Boeing Wedgetail Airborne Early Warning & Control (AEW&C) aircraft.

The Boeing Wedgetail is an aircraft designed in response to Australia's RFP to vendors for an Airborne Early Warning & Control (AEW&C) aircraft (and supporting segments) for the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF). In 1997, Boeing Integrated Defense Systems was awarded a contract to supply four AEW&C aircraft (whose design is based on the 737-700IGW), with Australia having the option to increase the order by three additional aircraft. ...

The aircraft uses the Northrop Grumman Multi-role Electronically Scanned Array (MESA) radar and control systems. The radar is located on a dorsal fin on top of the fuselage, dubbed the "top hat", and is designed for minimal aerodynamic effect. The radar is capable of simultaneous air and sea search, fighter control and area search. Other modifications include ventral fins to counterbalance the radar and countermeasures mounted on the nose, wingtips and tail. The cabin features eight operator consoles with sufficient space for four more; the Australian fleet will operate ten consoles with space for two more.

From: "Boeing Wedgetail", Wikipedia, 2006

JSF and Landing Helicopter Dock Ships

Navantia Landing Helicopter Dock ship, Copyright Navantia, 10 August 2005

Navantia LHD

In addition to integration with Wedgetail, the F-35 will require to be interfaced to Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) and other Defence systems including the Project JP2048 Landing Helicopter Dock (LHD) ships. Even if the ships are not equipped to operate the aircraft it is likely their Project SEA 1442 Phase 3 Maritime Communications and Information Management Architecture Modernisation (MCIMAM), communications system will need to be able to receive information from the aircraft.

Australia has not made a decision as to which variant of the F-35 to purchase. In the past Australia has purchased longer range US carrier aircraft for land use, suggesting the F-35C. The design of the F-35C was changed, further extending its range.

One recent change to the CV aircraft was an increase in wing size to reduce carrier recovery speed. This and other changes to increase fuel capacity and reduce drag pushed the F-35C's radius of action close to 1,300km (700nm) - "100nm more than the requirement" ...

From: "Future fighter, Graham Warwick, Flight International, 27 June 2006

However, the Australian Defence Force is planning to have the first of two LDH ships in-service by 2012, at around the same time as the F-35. These ships look to the lay person like small aircraft carriers. While no decision has been made, these ships could be equipped to operate the Vertical Takeoff, Short Landing (V/STOL) F-35B version of the Joint Strike Fighter. The July 2003 Australian Defence Capability Brief discusses the suitability of the F-35 for carrier based operation.

Research Areas

Australian universities and research organizations have the opportunity to participate in the JSF Project through the Australian Department of Defence managed project team. Defence staff have been briefing Australian universities on JSF participation during July 2006. The aim is to provide research partners for the companies involved, for long term (10 year) research. The project is out of its concept demonstration phase (CDD), currently in the System Development and Design (SDD) and with then move to Production, Sustainment and Further Development (PSFD).

The JSF Project Office (JPO) is establishing the Joint Strike Fighter Science and Technology Board (JSTAB) to guide its long-term science and technology strategy. The JSTAB will review emerging technologies as well as addressing the JSF Technical Needs List.

From: "Australian Participation on the Joint Strike Fighter Program", Australian Department of Defence

Funding is available to universities, research organisations and private companies. The capabilities of the Cooperative Research Centres (CRC) Programme will be access via their university partners.

The initial deadline for research proposals is required by 21 August 2006 and short presentations of proposals in September 2006. This should consist of a Quad Chart: one page summary with description of the organization, capability, technical Approach and cost estimate. Contact with the JSF Project Office (JPO) should be made via the university's research and commercialization staff. In the case of the ANU this is the Office of Commercialisation, Research Office.

While this document concentrates on information technology, research can be on any field relevant to the JSF, including: psychology, biological sciences, medical technology, engineering, materials science and information technology. Also while the examples here discuss Australian military requirements, research will generally be for the needs of all JSF users.

The Australian JSF Industry and Technology Conference will be held in Melbourne on Sunday 18 March 2007, in conjunction with the Australian International Aerospace Congress (AIAC-12) 2007.

Software Metrics and Engineering

The F-35 depends on software for much of its performance. With three increasingly different versions of the aircraft there is a large risk of problems with the software delaying the project. Software metrics and software engineering research provide tools and techniques to lessen the risk.

Lockheed is keen to avoid the pitfalls of its F-22 programme, including the issues with avionics software instability that slowed flight testing. ...

"Software is being developed in stages, building from around a million lines of basic vehicle-system software in the Block 0.1 release that will fly in AA-1 to a total of 6 million lines of code with the full-up Block 3 mission system. The same operational flight program (OFP) will be used by all three variants. "There will be one release to the aircraft - the aircraft will know if it is a CTOL, STOVL or CV; the engine will know if it is an F135 or F-136 ...".

From: "Future fighter, Graham Warwick, Flight International, 27 June 2006

Software Metrics

The field of software metrics has developed to plan and manage software acquisition. This has been used successfully on very large and complex multinational software development, such as the Australian Wedgetail Airborne Early Warning and Control Aircraft.