Joint Strike Fighter to get better targeting abilities

The stealth fighter plane will be fitted with new sensor technology.

The Joint Strike Fighter, which the Air Force, Navy and Marines use, will soon be outfitted with infrared sensor technology for precision air-to-air and air-to-surface targeting at greatly increased standoff ranges. The  compact, passive sensor combines forward-looking infrared and infrared search and track functionality.

The first production units have been delivered to Lockheed Martin Aeronautics in Fort Worth, Texas, for integration onto the aircraft. Lockheed Martin, which led the development of the F-35 Lightning II fighter plane, also developed the sensor system, called the Electro-Optical Targeting System (EOTS) system, said Rich Hinkle, program director of F-35 Lightning II EOTS at Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control. The company plans to produce more than 3,000 EOTS units, at a rate of up to 200 units a year, he said.

Sensors are one of the key elements of advancing weapons technology, according to some military experts.

Northrop Grumman and BAE Systems are Lockheed's major partners on the Joint Strike Fighter. The single-seat, single-engine plane had its first flight in December 2006.

Recently, BAE Systems announced that it is developing and testing a new F-35 Lightning II plane, designated BF-1, with short takeoff and vertical landing abilities, at the Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Md. Testing at Patuxent River followed a series of successful hover pit trials conducted at Lockheed Martin’s Fort Worth plant.