Lockheed Martin F-35 pilots from Italy and the Netherlands have joined those from the UK for the first time in a simulated mission scenario as part of an ongoing series of interoperability trials. The exercise explored the ability of linking various facilities around the UK into a common synthetic environment, as well as live assets, so that the F-35’s interoperability with other UK platforms can be assessed and refined.
In the scenario, the F-35 pilots ‘flew’ from desktop simulators at the BAE Systems Samlesbury site, including the use of helmet-mounted displays. A Joint Terminal Air Controller (JTAC) issued a request for close air support, which was passed to a simulated Air Support Operations Centre (ASOC) and then relayed to a Royal Navy Sea King Mk 7. The F-35s communicated with the JTAC via the aircraft’s variable message format (VMF) datalink to conduct digitially aided close air support (DACAS). For several of the pilots it was the first time they had used the VMF link.
Further trials will continue to progress F-35 interoperability, not just within the UK forces but with F-35 partner nations.
The aim is to iron out any issues prior to initial operating capability (IOC), and to establish an interoperability baseline with common tactics, techniques and procedures.
BAE Systems has invested heavily in the Samlesbury simulation facility, which has a new mission control room, a planning room for aircrew and operations support staff, a briefing/observation room, and a video conference service for post-mission debriefing.