Minister for Defence Industry, the Hon Christopher Pyne MP, has joined Rockwell Collins Australia at its facility in Sydney to witness the production of its 100th Optical Assembly for the F-35 electro-optic distributed aperture system (DAS).

The DAS is a multifunction infrared system providing passive, spherical battlespace awareness for F-35 pilots. It simultaneously detects and tracks aircraft and missiles in every direction, as well as providing visual imagery for day and night navigation and targeting purposes.

Minister Pyne welcomed the achievement and said Rockwell Collins Australia expects to produce more than 7,000 of these assemblies across the life of the F-35 program, representing at least 40 per cent of global production.

“Rockwell Collins Australia’s performance on the JSF program is proof Australian manufacturing can compete with the best in the world,” he said.

“Importantly, Australia’s ambition to grow the local defence industry is highlighted by this milestone.

“This game-changing technology sets the F-35 ahead of 4th generation fighter aircraft through its sensor fusion capability.

The imagery projected onto the pilot’s helmet-mounted display provides the capability to look at targets and terrain through the floor and wings of the aircraft.

The DAS works in conjunction with the Northrop Grumman AN/APG-81 active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar and other on-board systems to give F-35 pilots an unprecedented degree of situational awareness.

“Over the past decade Rockwell Collins have focussed on building capability in Australia to support the F-35,” Minister Pyne said.

The F-35 Optical Assembly will be a major export for Rockwell Collins Australia, with the company also vigorously pursuing global sustainment opportunities for the aircraft.

“In addition to this contribution, Rockwell Collins Australia has successfully partnered with BAE Systems Australia and Northrop Grumman Australia for assignment of regional maintenance and repair responsibilities for some F-35 avionic components.

“The company is also planning to increase its footprint to include a manufacturing capability for critical test equipment required by Australia and Partner countries.

“The skills and expertise that Rockwell Collins Australia has built are integral to the local capability they’ve developed for the broader Australian Defence Force, with the Army’s Digital Terminal Control System another example of the company’s contribution to Defence capability,” he said.