The F-35 Combat Systems Fusion “Engine”


The enemy is no longer working against a single sensor; he’s working against an advanced fusion engine and against the multiple F-35s on the network that are each sharing fused sensor data.

This advanced network enabled capability makes the F-35 a tremendous force multiplier. Like never before, individual aircraft can work together seamlessly.

The system is so advanced and revolutionary in its design that there were concerns that test pilots would have difficulty isolating and testing a single sensor because the collective integrated suite would kick in.

Engineers deliberately put a specific pilot vehicle interface into the airplane to allow the pilots to select a single sensor and tell the fusion engine to allow only that sensor’s track to come through. This feature enables test pilots to verify individual sensors.

Now the enemy, instead of just working against the radar, is forced to fight an integrated and fused sensor suite. The redundancy and comprehensive nature of the sensor suite gives the F-35 a tremendous advantage over legacy fighters. This is the huge advantage of advanced fusion. The F-22 Raptor has this ability, so while it’s not new, it’s being perfected in the F-35, and is a key characteristic of 5th Generation fighters.

“We know how to do this; we’ve done it before,” says Mike Skaff, principal engineer for the F-35’s pilot vehicle interface.”  “The airplanes that are coming off the line right now have this capability. Although it’s not in its final form, it will get better and better with each block of the software.”