A full-scale model of the F-35A Joint Strike Fighter unveiled today will be used by the Defence Science and Technology Organisation (DSTO) to study the effects of electromagnetic compatibility and interference on the aircraft.
Minister for Defence Senator David Johnston said the Australian-built model, known as Iron Bird, would be tested under simulated electromagnetic conditions during the acquisition and through-life sustainment of the JSF.
“The United States Joint Strike Fighter Program Office asked the DSTO to undertake this research, based on its world class expertise in investigating electromagnetic environmental effects,” Senator Johnston said.
During a visit to the DSTO laboratory in Adelaide, Senator Johnston said the testing by the DSTO will ensure the JSF is protected against electromagnetic environmental effects such as those caused by lightning and broadcast transmissions which can impair the performance and safety of aircraft.
The JSF is a fifth-generation aircraft with highly complex electronics, sophisticated software and a structural airframe made of composite materials to ensure stealth. These features expose the aircraft to electromagnetic interference from both naturally occurring phenomena and man-made sources, including telecommunication transmissions, radar and lightning strikes.
“The impact of these interferences needs to be well understood and appropriately managed,” Senator Johnston said.
“The data captured during DSTO testing will help in providing potential reductions in the cost of owning the JSF fleet and enhancing the aircraft’s capability.”
The DSTO test methods provide a rapid, cost-effective means of assessing and monitoring the JSF’s ability to withstand electromagnetic exposure and minimise any impact on its systems and performance.
Senator Johnston said DSTO’s research would support the verification for compliance and airworthiness certification for the JSF aircraft.
The Australian Government recently committed to buying an additional 58 JSF aircraft, bringing the fleet total to 72. Australia’s first two F-35As are due to be delivered to a United States-based training facility during 2014‑15 when Royal Australian Air Force pilot and maintainer training will begin on the aircraft.
Senator Johnston said because Australia had entered the program at the development phase, Australian companies have gained $357.6 million in production orders with only about 2-3 per cent of the production F-35A aircraft manufactured.
About 30 Australian companies are directly involved in doing business with JSF primes, with many more Australian companies as sub-contractors.