Rockwell Collins strikes F-35 landmark

Aircraft maintenance company Rockwell Collins Australia has reached a landmark during its work on the global F-35 Joint Strike Fighter programme.

Based in Sydney, the firm has completed the 100th Optical Assembly for the F-35 electro-optic distributed aperture system (DAS).

The DAS is a multifunction infrared system providing passive, spherical battlespace awareness for F-35 pilots.

It simultaneously detects and tracks aircraft and missiles in every direction, as well as providing visual imagery for day and night navigation and targeting purposes.

The F-35 Optical Assembly will be a major export for Rockwell Collins Australia, with the company also pursuing global sustainment opportunities for the aircraft.

“Over the past decade, Rockwell Collins have focussed on building capability in Australia to support the F-35,” said Defence minister Christopher Pyne.

“In addition to this contribution, Rockwell Collins Australia has successfully partnered with BAE Systems Australia and Northrop Grumman Australia for assignment of regional maintenance and repair responsibilities for some F-35 avionic components.

“The company is also planning to increase its footprint to include a manufacturing capability for critical test equipment required by Australia and Partner countries. 

“The skills and expertise that Rockwell Collins Australia has built are integral to the local capability they’ve developed for the broader Australian Defence Force, with the Army’s Digital Terminal Control System another example of the company’s contribution to defence capability.”

Rockwell Collins Australia has a long term agreement with Northrop Grumman Corporation to produce up to 40 per cent of the world’s optical assemblies for the Joint Strike Fighters.

As many as 3,000 JSFs could be produced worldwide and Australia is set to acquire 72 of them over the next decade, with potential for a fourth Australian squadron that would bring the number to 100.

“The optical assemblies are a key component of the Joint Strike Fighter’s electro-optical Distributed Aperture System, which is an infrared system that can track aircraft and missiles in all directions and provide vision for day and night navigation,” said Duncan Challen, executive director of Industry Development at the NSW Department of Industry.

“What it does in effect is allow pilots to see what is happening in any direction outside their aircraft with a 360 degree view projected onto the visor of their helmets.

“This technology means the aircraft structure is no longer a visual barrier to our fighter pilots as it would have been in the old days of dogfights.

“This is a great example of NSW and Australia’s world class defence industry competing successfully in global supply chains.”

Rockwell Collins Australia is supporting about 70 full-time staff at its Australian headquarters in Lane Cove, which provides its technical support base for repair, overhaul and equipment modifications.

“It is fantastic to be contributing to a globally significant project like the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter which will underpin the defence capabilities of so many international air forces including our own,” said Rockwell Collins Australia managing director Nick Gibbs.

“It is a tremendous feather in our cap and an endorsement of all the support we have received from the Federal Government and NSW Government so far.”