The F-35 Joint Program Office (JPO) and Lockheed Martin have announced an agreement concerning the F-35-in-a-box (FIAB) software elements.

This agreement ushers in further collaboration between government and industry partners, poised to improve simulation capabilities for the F-35 programme.

Air Force Lt. Gen. Mike Schmidt, director and programme executive officer for the F-35 JPO, lauded the agreement, emphasising its far-reaching implications for organic software development and operational readiness.

The accord signals an upturn in the evolution of Joint Simulation Environment (JSE) capabilities, allowing for the expansion of simulation activities in service-operated facilities. With the JSE serving as a tool for testing against threats within a virtual battlespace, the agreement unlocks opportunities for enhanced training and evaluation of F-35 capabilities.

“This agreement paves the way for users to integrate current F-35 operational software into the JSE, preparing for follow-on test and evaluation of Block 4 capabilities,” Schmidt stated. By integrating operational software into simulations and coupling it with operational flight training, the agreement aims to ensure that F-35 pilots worldwide are equipped to confront and overcome emerging threats effectively.

In Europe, the growth of the Combat Aircraft segment is mainly driven by F-35 programmes in countries such as the UK, Norway, Belgium and Finland, according to GlobalData’s “The Global Military Fixed Wing Aircraft Market 2023-2033” report.

In 2021, Lockheed Martin and the F-35 Joint Program Office (JPO) signed the Lightning Air System National Availability Enterprise (LANCE) contract, valued at £76m ($101m), to bolster support for the UK’s Lightning fleet. This agreement ensures enhanced availability and capability for the UK’s F-35 fleet, facilitating its combat missions globally, including its inaugural Carrier Strike deployment. 

Bridget Lauderdale, vice president and general manager for the F-35 Programme at Lockheed Martin, underscored the enduring partnership between Lockheed Martin and the JPO in advancing F-35 readiness. “We are proud of our continued partnership with the JPO to ensure F-35 pilots worldwide are trained and ready to deter and defend against emerging threats.”

The agreement facilitates accelerated integration of operational software into simulation environments and shows commitment to service-led sustainment efforts. With Department of the Air Force and Department of the Navy software developers now poised to contribute to F-35 software sustainment, the long-term vision for service-led sustainment takes a step forward.

This week, the US Government Accountability Office (GAO) reported a 44% increase in the F-35 programme’s sustainment costs, rising from $1.1trn in 2018 to $1.58trn in 2023, despite a 21% reduction in flight hours to cut expenses. While some progress has been made in meeting affordability targets, the GAO highlights decreasing availability and increasing sustainment costs.