Lockheed Martin F-35. File photo
The Lockheed Martin F-35 will run on a Harris-built integrated core processor (ICP) beginning in 2023, the two companies anounced Thursday.
The new ICP serves as the "brains" of the advanced fighter and promises 25 times the processing power at one-fourth the cost, according to Harris. Built with an open-systems architecture, the new processor should make future software upgrades to the jet easier and less expensive, according to Lockheed.
“The new F-35 ICP will pave the way for system scalability well into the future,” said Ed Zoiss, president of Harris Electronic Systems, in a statement. “Open systems are the future of avionics and Harris has invested substantial R&D to deliver more affordable and higher-performance solutions than would have been possible using proprietary technology.”
The ICP processes data for the F-35's communications, sensors, electronic warfare, guidance-and-control, cockpit avionics and helmet displays for the human pilot, who is physically unable to make use of the reams of information gathered by the aircraft.
"When you look at the amount of information being processed, it provides a lot higher reliability of that data coming to the pilot as well as flexibility in the pilot's ability to get that information through the system," said Bryant Henson, Harris Electronic Systems' vice president and general manager for avionics, in a phone conversation. "As capability increases on the aircraft, with this architecture, what we're providing is the ability to scale with the capability needs and capability growth of the aircraft itself and the weapon systems."
The ICP will be integrated beginning in 2023 with aircraft in procurement Lot 15, the same time as the switchover to Raytheon's distributed aperture system. The ICP will be part of what Lockheed Martin is calling the F-35's "technology refresh 3." Additional elements in the tech refresh include a panoramic cockpit display electronic unit and aircraft memory system, which Harris was also awarded in a recompete last year.
Up to this point, and through Lot 14, ICPs have been provided by Lockheed Martin Rotary and Missions Systems. A spokesman for the company said there were several bids for the new contract, but would not reveal the companies. Lockheed Martin has consistently said all partners and suppliers are vulnerable to replacement in recompetes to keep upgrade cost down.
“We are aggressively pursuing cost reduction across the F-35 enterprise and, after conducting a thorough review and robust competition, we’re confident the next-generation integrated core processor will reduce costs and deliver transformational capabilities for the warfighter,” said Greg Ulmer, Lockheed Martin vice president and general manager of the F-35 program.
Lockheed is transitioning several F-35 suppliers to longer-term performance-based logistics contracts to enhance parts availability and reduce sustainment costs.
Harris recently delivered its millionth product to the F-35 program at over a 99.95 percent reliability, Henson said. Being chosen for the ICP contract is an affirmation of the company's performance and its decisions on where to invest, he said. The company has increased its manufacturing footprint four-fold meet a more rapid delivery schedule as F-35 production ramps up in the 2020s.
This article was originally published at sister publication Avionics International.