Lockheed Martin Reducing Cost of F-35 Simulator

By Yasmin Tadjdeh

Photo: U.S. Air Force

ORLANDO, Fla. — Lockheed Martin is reducing the price of the F-35 joint strike fighter’s full mission simulators by utilizing technologies such as additive manufacturing.

The cost of the simulators — which has dropped by $3 million per copy since the program’s inception — is reflected in the company’s low-rate initial production lot 11 contract, Lockheed announced Nov. 27 during the National Training and Simulation Association’s annual Interservice/Industry Training Simulation and Education Conference in Orlando.

“Just this year we've … been implementing additive manufacturing and some improved production techniques,” said Amy Gowder, Lockheed’s vice president and general manager for training and logistics solutions’ division. “We're taking 25 percent of the cost out of the simulator.”

The effort — which includes 3D printing of the simulator’s cockpits ­— is projected to save $11 million over the next five years, the company noted. It will reduce components necessary for the cockpit from 800 parts to five, a Lockheed spokesperson said.

It is also improving production techniques by executing long-term supply chain contracts and employing automation on the production line.

The company is also looking at ways to reduce sustainment costs for the simulators and is investing $30 million into the effort, she noted.

It is doing that three ways. One is by “improving the software efficiency and the hardware efficiency from the operating and maintenance cost of the simulators,” Gowder said. Automating support tasks and reducing manpower support requirements will be key.

It is also driving concurrency between the training system and the F-35 aircraft, she said.

“Concurrency with the aircraft is one need I see across all my platforms and all my programs,” she said. “The capabilities are evolving more rapidly and deploying them through agile methods to the aircraft [is necessary]. … The trainer needs to stay in sync so that you can train as soon as the capabilities are ready.”

The simulators will also be upgraded with a new virtual training environment that is based on emerging threats, Gowder added.

Lockheed — which plans to deliver approximately 100 simulators around the world by 2020 — will be able to upgrade older F-35 simulators across the globe with the training environment, she said.

Software upgrades can take as little as a week, she said. Hardware adjustment timelines will be dependent on individual countries schedules and desire to retrofit systems, she added.

Lockheed is also adding capability throughout 2019 including the initial distributed mission training, or DMT, capability and software block 4 training system upgrades. The DMT will allow the military to “link an F-35 with an F-22 or other fourth-gen fighters in a simulated environment with the trainers fighting together,” Gowder said.

Topics: Simulation Modeling Wargaming and Training

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