The F-35 Lightning II and Aegis Weapon System have worked together for the first time during a live fire exercise. The joint Lockheed Martin, U.S. Navy and U.S. Marine Corps exercise, conducted in September, was the first live fire missile event that successfully demonstrated the integration of the F-35 to support the Naval Integrated Fire Control-Counter Air (NIFC-CA) concept.
During the test, an unmodified U.S. Marine Corps F-35B from the Marine Operational Test and Evaluation Squadron 1, acted as an elevated sensor and detected an over-the-horizon threat. The F-35B sent data through the aircraft’s Multi-Function Advanced Data Link (MADL) to a ground station connected to the Aegis Weapon System on the USS Desert Ship (LLS-1) test platform running the Baseline 9 Aegis Combat System. The target was subsequently engaged and intercepted by a Standard Missile 6.
This capability, when fully realized, is expected to significantly increase the warfighters’ situational awareness using Aegis and the F-35 together to better understand the maritime operational environment. Using any variant of the F-35 as a broad area sensor, the aircraft can significantly increase the Aegis capability to detect, track and engage.
The developments necessary to achieve this capability — which is not yet covered by an official programme — have been funded by Lockheed Martin, though the Pentagon allocated a budget for the tests.
The Aegis system first entered service in the U.S. Navy in the 1980s and has been constantly updated. Baseline 9 is the latest standard. In addition to the U.S. Navy, it has been selected by Australia, Japan, Norway, South Korea and Spain.
Lockheed Martin has also developed COMBATSS-21, a scalable version of Aegis that can be adapted to smaller vessels. It equips the Freedom littoral combat ships and U.S. Coast Guard cutters and has already been selected by the U.S. Navy for its future frigates.