Maryland plays role in evolving military fleet

F-35 development hitting its stride

Linthicum, Maryland - A replica cockpit, simulated military radar and graphics displayed on close to a dozen high-definition monitors might make you think you're looking at the latest video game. You may want to look again.

What you see is the latest in military aircraft through the F-35 Project, led by Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumann. It's a program Dan Conroy with Lockheed Martin says is long overdue.

"Navy, Air Force, Marine pilots include so many men and women," he said. "They're our sons and daughters, so we owe this to them."

A retired Air Force pilot, Conroy says the F-35 is the upgrade needed to the U.S. fleet, especially when you consider the age of the equipment currently in service.

"I started flying the F-16 in 1979," he said. "That plane is still flying, and it's the backbone of the U.S. fleet."

 Lockheed Martin relied upon feedback from Air Force, Navy and Marine pilots when designing the F-35. And when it came to designing the radar and avionics within this ground breaking aircraft, they called upon Northrop Grumann in Linthicum.

"We design, develop, produce and deliver the radar," said Joe Ensor with Northrop Grumann. "We also develop the out of this facility the distributed aperture system, what's in the helmet you see over your shoulder."

The helmet readout, appearing in the visor, is connected to six sensors installed on the aircraft. "Those six sensors give the pilot situational awareness," Ensor said. "If someone were to fire a missile at the jet, the pilot would be alerted and be able to perform counter measures from that threat."

According to both Dan Conroy and Ensor, Maryland will continue playing a significant role in the F-35's development. The result will be almost 4,000 jobs and hundreds of millions of dollars impacting the economy.

"We're producing three per month," Ensor said. "The long-term goal is push production up to 20 per month. You can imagine the impact that will have."

They're numbers sure to get anyone's attention, and it's an economic and military impact to which Congresswoman Donna Edwards is proud to see Maryland contributing.

"I think Lockheed Martin and Northrup Grumann are engaged in delivering the highest capabilities , next generation fighter that our pilots need," she said. "We have an aging fleet. We all know that, and the sooner we can get to production going, the better it will be."

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