The electro-optical targeting system on the Block 3F version software of all F-35 variants will satisfy the users’ requirements for close air support, despite media reports to the contrary, the system program office said. The online Daily Beast quoted unnamed Air Force officials “affiliated with the F-35 program” as saying the F-35’s EOTS will be “hopelessly obsolete” and unable to properly facilitate data-sharing between pilots and ground troops when it becomes operational. Joseph DellaVedova, spokesman for the SPO, however, said the F-35 EOTS has already demonstrated in virtual exercises that it meets requirements for CAS missions, “particularly in contested environments.” The F-35 can transmit and receive EOTS and radar images, “still images via Link-16 and Variable Message Format (VMF) data links to and from other entities including joint terminal attack controllers,” he said. DellaVedova acknowledged that the F-35’s current EOTS was based on “second-generation” electro-optical systems; a “deliberate and informed choice” of the F-35 partners more than a decade ago “to minimize development risk.” Currently fielded systems on other aircraft are third generation, and Della Vedova said the Block 4 version of the F-35 will incorporate most of those improved attributes, to include “higher definition video, longer-range target detection and identification, video data link and infrared marker and pointer.” The EOTS, however, has air-to-air capabilities and works in conjunction with the distributed aperture system to provide unique and stealthy capabilities that third-gen EO systems can’t do, he noted. The SPO issued its statement on the F-35 gun and EOTS “to clear the air on some nameless/sourceless/baseless reporting.”
In a nighttime ceremony contrived to continue concealment of many of its features, the new B-21 bomber rolled out of Northrop Grumman's Palmdale, Calif. plant Dec. 2. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said the aircraft's advanced technology represents "deterrence, the American way."