How the Air Force Will Keep the F-35 Forever Lethal

Kris Osborn

Key point: The F-35 will have access to the data necessary to take on all known enemy threats.

The Air Force is accelerating development of a special, high-tech, on-board threat library for the F-35 designed to precisely identify enemy aircraft operating in different high-risk areas around the globe - such as a Chinese J-20 stealth fighter or Russian T-50 PAK FA 5th Gen fighter, service leaders said. 

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Described as the brains of the airplane, the "mission data files" are extensive on-board data systems compiling information on geography, air space and potential threats in areas where the F-35 might be expected to perform combat operations, Air Force officials explained.

"Mission data files are the key that unlocks the F-35," Brig. Gen. Scott Pleus, Director of the F-35 Integration Office said. 

Consisting of hardware and software, the mission data files are essentially a database of known threats and friendly aircraft in specific parts of the world. The files are being worked on at a reprogramming laboratory at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., Air Force officials said. The mission data files are designed to work with the aircraft's Radar Warning Receiver engineered to find and identify approaching enemy threats and incoming hostile fire. 

Pleus said the service is working vigorously to speed up development and integration of new software engineered to widen the threat envelope of the mission data files to enable the now operational F-35 to better identify specific enemy threats. 

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