Lockheed Martin announced that it has delivered the first production units of the Electro-Optical Targeting System being built for the F-35 stealth fighter to the company’s F-35 assembly plant in Fort Worth, Tex., for integration onto the aircraft. “This delivery marks a pivotal achievement for the EOTS as we transition from a system design and development program to a production program,” said Rich Hinkle, Lockheed’s EOTS program director. The company says it is ramping up to produce up to 200 EOTS units a year. The EOTS is a passive sensor system embedded into the F-35 fuselage that will provide F-35 pilots with forward-looking infrared and IR search and track functionality for air-to-air and air-to-ground situational awareness. (The first production equivalent F-35A, the USAF conventional takeoff and landing variant, flew for the first time from Fort Worth in November.)
U.S. Air Force F-35s and F-22s regularly deploy deep into the Pacific region from Alaska, Utah, and Hawaii. In the future, though, the head of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command would like to see the Air Force permanently station fifth-generation aircraft west of the international date line—closer to China.