BAE Systems at Samlesbury hosts successful F-35 trials

Samlesbury has hosted a successful testing session which has proven that F-35 parts, sourced from Lancashire and around the world, operate well alongside each other.

The testing session was the first time that Royal Navy and Royal Air Force pilots have teamed up with fellow F-35 pilots from Italy and the Netherlands, taking part in the latest interoperability trials that see coalition forces flying F-35s in a simulated mission scenario with other UK military platforms across land, sea and air.

The pilots flew the F-35 aircraft from desktop simulators - supplied by Lockheed Martin - at BAE Systems’ site in Samlesbury.

This request was coordinated through a simulated Air Support Operations Centre (ASOC), and passed to two Royal Navy Sea King aircrew who provided command and control directions to the F-35 pilots. As they approached the target area the pilots checked in with the JTAC using the Variable Message Format (VMF) datalink and then proceeded to prosecute their assigned Digitally Aided Close Air Support (DACAS) missions.

“For many, it was their first experience of digitally aided CAS using the F-35’s VMF datalink, and it proved very valuable. It’s a great example of collaboration across the programme and we are already looking forward to welcoming these pilots and those of other F-35 Partner nations back for further trials.”

recent investments in the simulation facility

Further facility improvements include a new mission control room to command the exercise, a mission planning room for aircrew and operations support staff, and a large briefing/observation room where the scenario and missions can be viewed live and operators can link up via video conference to the other trial participants at the various locations to conduct a debrief.

Tony Hall added: “We are working towards establishing an IOC interoperability baseline for the UK and F-35 Partner nations and helping them develop a Coalition Concept of Operations (CONOPS) and common tactics, techniques and procedures (TTPs)”. BAE Systems is responsible for leading F-35 carrier integration activities on behalf of the UK customer. A further trial is scheduled later in the year which will concentrate on the interoperability between the F-35 and Italian naval and airborne platforms and will link simulation facilities from multiple UK and Italian locations.

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