The Joint Strike Fighter, which is being built by Lockheed Martin as
the F35, will be known in UK service as the Joint Combat Aircraft (JCA)
and is planned to replace the RAF and RN’s Harriers. Although Lockheed
Martin is the prime contractor, the UK is a Level 1 partner with the
US and a number of British companies, including BAE Systems and
Rolls-Royce, will have extensive involvement in building and
developing the aircraft.
The UK version, the F35B, will be a stealthy, multi-role, all-weather,
day & night, fighter/attack air system, designed to operate as a Short
Take-off and Vertically Land (STOVL) aircraft from land bases and from
the next generation of aircraft carriers. This will give the UK a
world-beating land-based and sea-based joint expeditionary air power
capability well into the middle of the century. When the JCA enters
service, it will be able to conduct deep strike missions, into
contemporary Integrated Air Defence Systems, against a myriad of
target sets. Moreover, by conducting robust Integrated Air Operations,
JSF will support friendly ground forces with close air support,
long-range interdiction, anti-surface warfare and tactical
reconnaissance. The aircraft will offer many advantages over legacy
platforms: very low oberservability, supersonic flight, improved
survivability, internal and external weapons carriage, increased range
and easier supply and maintenance.
The JCA design applies stealth technology techniques and, to minimise
its radar signature, the airframe has identical sweep angles for the
leading and trailing edges of the wing and tail, and incorporates
sloping sides for the fuselage and the canopy. As a further
signature-reduction measure, the seam of the canopy and the weapon-bay
doors are saw-toothed and the vertical tails are canted at an angle.
To achieve the smallest signature possible the aircraft has the
ability to carry a range of weapons internally, rather than external
carriage as displayed in current fighters. However, when operating in
a permissive environment, an array of weapons can be carried on
The main radar system is a newly developed, electronically scanned
array multi-function radar with synthetic aperture and moving target
indicator capabilities. Targeting information can also be supplied by
an electro-optical system, which provides long-range detection and
precision targeting by employing thermal imaging, laser tracking and
marking, and a 3600 infrared system. The aircraft’s systems will also
provide navigation, missile warning and infrared search and track
capabilities. All this affords the UK, for the first time, a truly
tactical ISTAR (Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition and
Early production aircraft will be powered by a Pratt and Whitney F-135
turbofan engine, but there are plans for subsequent aircraft to be
offered with a choice of an interchangeable F-136 engine being
developed by the General Electric / Rolls Royce Fighter Engine Team.
Vertical lift and hover will be achieved by means of a Rolls-Royce
developed lift-fan system. Doors installed above and below the
vertical fan open as the fan powers up to provide vertical lift. This
vertical lift is used in conjunction with the main engine exhaust
nozzle at the rear of the aircraft, which swivels down from the
horizontal to provide the required lift.
The JCA will place the RAF at the forefront of fighter technology and
will give it a true multi-role air system that will surpass the
majority of other weapons systems in production today, or envisaged in
the foreseeable future. Coupled with the Typhoon aircraft, JCA will
keep the RAF at the cutting edge of military aviation.
In 1996, the UK began the formal procurement process to examine
options for a Future Carrier Borne Aircraft (FCBA), to succeed the
Royal Navy’s Sea Harrier from 2012. However, in the 1998 Strategic Defence Review White Paper, it was
confirmed that the RN and RAF Harrier forces would be combined into a
new Joint Force 2000.
Therefore, the FCBA requirement was widened to
include replacement of the RAF’s GR9 and T10 ground attack Harriers
from around 2015, thus providing the UK with a joint land and sea
based expeditionary air-power capability. To reflect this change, the
programme was renamed Joint Combat Aircraft (JCA) in 2001.
JCA is to replace current Joint Force Harriers with a multi-role
The US Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) has been identified as having the
best potential to meet the requirement, resulting in signature of a
Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) in January 2001 to enter the System
Development and Demonstration (SDD) Phase of the JSF programme as a
Level 1 partner. The UK has thus committed some £1.4Bn to the US
programme, while approximately £600M will be spent on non-SDD work.
This was in the light of successful UK participation in the Concept
Demonstration Phase of the JSF programme, which involved test flying 2
development aircraft types, the Boeing X32 and the Lockheed Martin
X35. This flight test programme supported an extensive assessment of
the ability of each contractor to develop and deploy a family of
advanced strike aircraft to meet the requirements of the US Air Force,
Navy and Marine Corps and the UK. Following the conclusion of this
source selection process, it was announced in October 2001 that
Lockheed Martin had been selected as Prime Contractor to take the
programme forward. The UK participated fully in source selection.
It was announced on 30 September 2002 that the Short Take-Off
Vertical Landing (STOVL) variant of JSF has been selected to meet the
requirement, in preference to the Conventional Carrier (CV) variant.
The decision has been welcomed by UK industry.
JCA is closely associated with the CVF programme and there are
also strong linkages with the Maritime Airborne Surveillance
Capability (MASC) programme and also with the RAF’s Future Offensive
Air System (FOAS).
On entry into service with the RN and RAF, JCA will be required to
operate in all weathers, day and night missions for air defence of the
fleet and of ground forces and for the offensive air support of ground
forces, ranging from close air support to long-range air interdiction,
as well as anti-surface warfare and tactical reconnaissance.
Key attributes of JCA in comparison to current Joint Force
COSTS/IN-SERVICE DATE (ISD)/MAJOR
It is currently anticipated that the total procurement cost of JCA
will be up to £10Bn depending on the number of aircraft required and
the variant selected. Subsequent costs will be determined by whatever
through life support strategy we decide to adopt. This makes it
one of the Defence Procurement Agency’s largest acquisition
programmes over the next two decades
2001 SDD MOU Signature
2001 Source Selection decision
2002 Variant Selection decision2
2010 First aircraft delivery
2012 In Service Date
The current planning assumption is for up to 150 JCA.
The SDD contract with Lockheed Martin was signed in October 2001. Its
overall value is some $20Bn (£15Bn).
UK industry has extensive involvement in the JSF programme. BAE
Systems is teamed with Lockheed Martin while Rolls Royce is involved
in providing STOVL-specific items of propulsion equipment. Other
elements of the UK aerospace industry will also provide key components
for the JSF.
A prime contract has also been awarded to Pratt and Whitney to
develop the main engine for JSF (F135). An interchangeable engine
(F136) is being developed by General Electric and Rolls Royce, as a
downstream competitive alternative to the F135
The UK is the only Level 1 partner with the US in the SDD Phase of the
JSF programme. Other international partners at Levels 2 and 3 are the
Netherlands, Italy, Denmark, Canada, Norway, Australia and Turkey.
Copyright BAe Systems
COMPANIES INVOLVED WITH THIS PROJECT
SELEX GALILEO - JSF Laser Designator/ Receiver developed for
Lockheed Martin, forms integral sub-system within electro-optical
targeting system of F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.
ULTRA ELECTRONICS CEMS - Ultra electronics provide printed
circuit board assemblies
TRaC - EMC Testing