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Lockheed Martin Unveils Advanced EOTS Development

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At this year’s Air Force Association Annual Air & Space Conference and Technology Expo, Lockheed Martin Corporation (LMCO) updated on the status of its Advanced Electro-Optical Targeting System (EOTS) development for the F-35 Lightning II fighter aircraft.

The baseline/legacy EOTS is a low-drag, stealthy multi-function system integrated into the F-35’s fuselage that the company touts as an affordable, high-performance, lightweight system that provides precision air-to-air and air-to-surface targeting capability.  Says Lockheed Martin: “As the first sensor to combine forward-looking infrared and infrared search and track functionality, EOTS enhances F-35 pilots’ situational awareness and allows aircrews to identify areas of interest, perform reconnaissance and precisely deliver laser and GPS-guided weapons. LMCO has delivered more than 170 EOTS units for the F-35 to date.

Lockheed Martin has now offering to the F-35 Joint Program Office (JPO) what is calls Advanced EOTS, an evolutionary upgrade of the EOTS (completed circa 2002) that the company believes can be available for the F-35’s Block 4 development, presently scheduled to roll out in the 2019-2020 timeframe.

Designed to replace EOTS, and in response to the evolving threat, Advanced EOTS has a larger aperture and incorporates a range of enhancements and upgrades, including short-wave infrared (SWIR), high-definition television, an infrared marker and significantly improved image detector resolution. These enhancements, which leverage off-the-shelf technology and DoD tech base investment including USAF investment in focal plane arrays, will increase F-35 pilots’ recognition and detection ranges, enabling greater overall targeting performance.

Due to its similarity in shape and size to EOTS, LMCO notes that AEOTS can be installed with minimal changes to the F-35’s interface. It will be housed behind the same low-drag window (see photo, right), maintaining the F-35’s stealthy profile. Advanced EOTS production – if the F-35 program elects to procure it -- will be completed on the current EOTS line.

Don Bolling, Lockheed Martin’s Fire Control BD Director told DSJ that the AEOTS system, funded over the past five years via internal LMCO and supplier investment, is now at a Technology Readiness Level of 4 (i.e., component and/or breadboard validation in laboratory environment), with a demonstration planned to move the AEOTS system from TRL 4 to TRL 6 (representative system flying on a surrogate aircraft) in early 2017.  

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LMCO sees AEOTS as being “cost neutral” – that is, costing no more than EOTS as presently provided.  Bolling notes that Lockheed Martin is proposing that the F-35 program take up funding the system’s advanced development so that AEOTS is prospectively ready for inclusion into the early Block 4 F-35 in the 2019-20 timeframe, should EOTS be a systems identified for improvement within Block 4, a development that LMCO believes to be likely. 

Bolling adds that the U.S. Government will decide whether/when the capability provided in AEOTS will be fully releasable to the eight F-35 partner nations.