Lockheed Martin has been awarded a $106m modification contract to provide engineering, test, maintenance, logistics, and material in support of Phase 2 upgrades of the Australia Canada United Kingdom Reprogramming Laboratory (ACURL) for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter programme.

Additionally, this modification adds scope to procure verification and validation system hardware, common system infrastructure hardware, ACURL Phase 2 follow-on modernisation design and training in support of ACURL Phase 2 efforts.

The creation of ACURL – a shared data centre for Australian, Canadian and British F-35 stealth fighters – was a milestone for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter Programme unveiled in February 2020.

The data centre, based in Eglin, Florida, serves as the heart of the F-35’s intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities. RAF fast-jet navigator and Wing Commander Gerry McCormack captured the importance of the centre when it was unveiled, commenting “the ACURL enables the [F-35] Lightening to make sense of the world around it. [The] F-35 has a sophisticated suite of sensors, but without the mission data that this laboratory provides, it cannot make sense of all that information”.

Since then, the DoD has contracted the F-35 original equipment manufacturer, Lockheed Martin, to provide incremental upgrades on the F-35 data centre. This work is important to providing scalable enhancements to the three countries’ F-35 data collection.

“Without this laboratory, [the F-35’s] sensors don’t have anything to compare with the data they are picking up, so it is effectively meaningless. You need a facility such as this to enable those sensors to actually work” McCormack added.

“More than a fighter jet, the F-35’s ability to collect, analyse and share data, is a powerful force multiplier that enhances all airborne, surface and ground-based assets in the battlespace,” according to Lockheed Martin.

As it stands, GlobalData forecasts Canadian spending on its F-35s between 2023-33 to register 4.5% compound annual growth rate (CAGR). This is closely followed by the UK with 4.4% CAGR. Australia is expected to spend $106m in 2023, which will rise to $894m in 2024.

Work will be performed in Eglin, Florida (80%); and Fort Worth, Texas (20%), and is expected to be completed in December 2029.

Non-DoD participant funds in the amount of $266,931,896 will be obligated at the time of award, none of which will expire at the end of the current fiscal year.