F-35A Aircraft Right at Home in Utah Aerospace Industry

Pete CodellaNews

Who would’ve thought the ever-impressive F-16 could ever be beat? Who would’ve thought Utah would get to play a part in the game?

Gerald Murray, Lockheed Martin Aeronautics director of enterprise sustainment at Hill Air Force Base, provided an overview of the new F-35A fighter aircraft coming to Hill AFB.  Along with Perry Oaks, senior manager at Lockheed Martin, Murray presented three models to the Governor’s Office of Economic Development (GOED) during an extended executive staff and partners meeting on Monday.

The F-35 comes as a result of a decade-long project lead by Lockheed Martin, which has an aeronautics office in Layton near Hill AFB. The main assembly of the multirole fighters takes place in Ft. Worth, Texas, but the Air Force is standing up its first operational unit at Hill AFB in 2016. Additionally, the Ogden Air Logistics Complex will provide most of the aircraft and component sustainment support for the F-35A including modification, maintenance, repair and overhaul for the next 50 plus years.

“The F-35 is representative of some of the best aerospace and defense technology in the world,” said Val Hale, executive director of GOED. “The fact Utah gets to play such a critical role in training and development shows Utah is a true leader in the aerospace industry.”

The fighter comes in three different models: the F-35A, F-35B and F-35C. Each has slightly varied capabilities suitable to serve the United States Air Force, Marine Corps and Navy which combined will purchase 2,443 jets. Internationally, Lockheed Martin has contracted with 11 other nations, including the U.K.’s Royal Air Force, for more than 800 hundred aircraft.

According to Murray and Oaks, the most remarkable feature of the F-35 is its stealth capabilities. The new plane, Murray said, is “practically invisible to radar.” As Oaks put it, where the F-16 might look like a truck on radar, an F-35 would register like a butterfly.

Modern technological feats include the fact the plane is made almost entirely out of composite materials. But perhaps most notable are the fighter’s software systems. Murray estimated the F-16 required about 5 million lines of code for control of the aircraft. The F-35’s air and ground software, on the other hand, contains more than 24 million lines of code. The pilot’s helmet alone contains more software than the entire F-16. The high-tech helmet, accompanied with a number of sensors on the surface of the plane, allows the pilot to have a 360 degree view around the body of the aircraft—including a view below.

Software supports this new generation of “flying computer” aircraft and the growing technology across the board is expected to generate approximately 2,000 jobs at Hill AFB in the coming decade. Murray and Oaks presented three models of each F-35 to Hale, and Hale expressed GOED’s continued support of aerospace and defense—one of GOED’s six strategic economic clusters.