Australia and the UK have officially opened an Australian and United Kingdom F-35 Reprogramming Laboratory at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida.
FILE PHOTO (10 December 2018): One of the first two Royal Australian Air Force F-35A Lightning Joint Strike Fighters flies overhead RAAF Base Williamtown on delivery day. Photo by Brian Hartigan.
EDITOR’S INTERJECTION: I was confused as to why Australia and the UK would splinter off from the 14 (or 16 if you still count Turkey and Canada) Global F-35 Team to do this as a two-country venture – especially when they don’t fly the same F-35 variant – and I thought you might be too. So I did a spot of Googling, and learnt that the USA also has a Reprogramming Laboratory right next door to the Aust/UK building (which has been operational for nearly 10 years), and Norway and Italy have built a third, but seperate one of their own nearby.
Also, I discovered that the Aust/UK laboratory is actually called the Australia, Canada, United Kingdom Reprogramming Laboratory (ACURL) and will remain so, despite Canada not even being an F-35 customer (yet).
Just a few facts to keep in mind as you read the minister’s announcement.
Minister for Defence Linda Reynolds said the new lab would enable the F-35 to be a ‘smart’ aircraft.
She said the Reprogramming Laboratory [note capital initials, as if it was the name] would produce mission data files (MDFs) for Australian and UK F-35s.
“[MDFs] compile information about the operating environment and assets in an area, before being loaded onto the aircraft pre-flight using a portable hard drive,” Minister Reynolds said.
“Combined with the aircraft’s advance sensor suite, this provides the pilot with a clearer battlespace picture.
“The Reprogramming Laboratory will support Australian and UK F-35s by developing, verifying, validating and issuing F-35 MDFs for Australian and UK-fielded F-35s.
“Both countries are co-funding and supporting the capability under a 50/50 funding arrangement.”
Australia’s F-35A is expected to achieve Initial Operating Capability in December this year, and Final Operating Capability by late 2023.
Minister Reynolds said today’s opening of the Reprogramming Laboratory was a key milestone in the delivery of the F-35 program to the Australian Defence Force.
Initially built at Lockheed Martin Aeronautics’ base in Fort Worth, Texas, Lockheed Martin was last year contracted (US$7.5million) to move what is actually called the ACURL (Australia, Canada, United Kingdom Reprogramming Laboratory) to Florida.
Lockheed Martin was also awarded a separate US$18m modification contract by the US Department of Defense for maintenance and operation of the ACURL in Florida.
ACURL is manned by around 200 staff from Australia, the UK and the USA.