This article first appeared in Aerospace Daily & Defense Report.
Lockheed Martin is working with General Atomics Aeronautical Systems to fly a version of the F-35s stealthy electro-optical targeting system (EOTS) on the Avenger unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) in the latter part of 2010.
Mounted behind faceted sapphire windows, the mid-wave infrared sensor would reduce the swept-wing, jet-powered UAVs radar signature compared with the conventional external electro-optic/infrared (EO/IR) turret on a Predator or Reaper.
General Atomics is developing the Avenger as its candidate for the U.S. Air Forces pending MQ-X requirement for a follow-on to the companys MQ-1 Predator and MQ-9 Reaper UAVs, to enter service sometime after 2015.
Lockheed Martin calls its UAV version of the EOTS the Advanced Low-observable Embedded Reconnaissance Targeting (ALERT) system. Integration of the sensor onto the Avenger is being funded internally by the companies.
Trying to make a conventional EO/IR sensor stealthy by mounting it behind a window reduces its performance, the company argues, while the F-35 EOTS has been designed to mount the optics close to the window to maximize aperture.
Lockheed Martin says it is working on the electrical and mechanical interfaces between the ALERT and the Avenger, and has performed a fit check with the UAVs outer mold line, but aircraft modifications have not yet begun.