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Lockheed Martin wins $213m contract to update F-35 datacenter

Includes 'engineering, maintenance, logistics, and material support' under Joint Strike Fighter program

US defense giant Lockheed Martin has bagged a $213 million contract for upgrade work to a datacenter connected with the F-35 fighter program at Eglin US Air Force Base in Florida.

The contract awarded by the US Navy Naval Air Systems Command is for the provision of engineering, maintenance, logistics, and material support for the Phase 2 upgrade of the Australia, Canada, UK Reprogramming Laboratory (ACURL) for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program.

The ACURL was opened in 2020 and is used primarily in the ongoing development of mission data files for the F-35 stealth fighter for the UK and Australia, while Canada has yet to receive its aircraft. These mission data files are used by the plane’s onboard computer systems to help process the large volumes of data gathered by the aircraft’s array of sensors and to identify targets and threats.

ACURL is staffed by about 110 technical personnel from the Royal Air Force, Royal Navy, Royal Australian Air Force, Lockheed Martin, and US Government. The US has its own Reprogramming Laboratory located nearby.

According to the US Department of Defense, the contract also includes funding for Lockheed Martin to develop a new mission data production and test line to support sovereign reprogramming capabilities for UK and Australian F-35 aircraft. Initial obligated funds for the project amounting to just over $53 million will come from the Joint Strike Fighter program’s non-DOD participant account.

Work on upgrading the ACURL will be performed mostly at Eglin, Florida, with about a third being carried out at Lockheed Martin’s Fort Worth facility in Texas. The upgrade is expected to be completed by July 2027.

Meanwhile, the troubled F-35 program saw a number of the jets grounded this week, when the maker of the ejection seats used in the aircraft, Martin-Baker, reported a potential flaw with the actuation cartridge in an F-35 in the US. However, Bloomberg reports that the jets have resumed flights after inspections were carried out to other aircraft.

The UK Ministry of Defence has also confirmed plans to replace a British F-35B that fell into the Mediterranean following a failed take-off from the deck of aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth last year, according to the UK Defence Journal.

Lockheed Martin reported Q2 2022 net sales of $15.4 billion last month, compared to $17 billion in the second quarter of 2021. Net earnings in the quarter were $309 million, compared to $1.8 billion in the same quarter of 2021. This included non-operational charges totaling $1.7 billion, the company said. ®

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