RAF News

Multi-million Dollar Lightning Data Centre Ready For Action

A multi-million-dollar, joint UK and Australian military data centre in Florida, designed to give each country’s Lightning jets operational advantage, has achieved Initial Operating Capability.

More than ten years in the making, this milestone means the Lightning pilots can fly into hostile air space confident their aircraft’s computer systems will help them to safely complete even the most dangerous and demanding combat missions.

Commanding ACURL is RAF fast-jet navigator, Wing Commander Gerry McCormack. He said:

“The ACURL enables the Lightning to make sense of the world around it. F-35 has a sophisticated suite of sensors, but without the mission data that this laboratory provides, it cannot make sense of all that information.”

Wing Commander Gerry McCormack

Behind the virtually windowless, thick concrete walls of the Australian, Canadian and United Kingdom Reprogramming Laboratory (ACURL), highly trained specialists compile and test Mission Data File Sets (MDFS). The MDFS are used on-board the Lightning and ‘fused’ with the masses of information gathered by the aircraft’s numerous sensors to show the pilot exactly the information he or she needs to make the right decision.

“If for example the enemy radar transmitting belongs to a surface to air missile system or another aircraft, the F-35 has a very high fidelity capability of being able to identify where that target is, what it is doing, how it is behaving and whether it is any threat to me or any of our colleagues. The sensors on it are extremely good but the work that this laboratory does optimises those sensors.

“Without this laboratory, those sensors don’t have anything to compare with the data they are picking up, so it is effectively meaningless. You need a facility such as this to enable those sensors to actually work.”

ACURL claims to be a truly multi-national unit with 110 personnel from the Royal Air Force, Royal Navy, Royal Australian Air Force, Lockheed Martin, US Government and US contractors, working alongside each other.

“The ACURL has been constructed as a joint UK and Australian outfit, and potentially maybe even Canada in the future. We are really keen that we work alongside our Australian colleagues because they bring with them a whole suite of expertise from other platforms and it makes us stronger. The importance of being here working alongside our American colleagues means that we can not only benefit from their experience in building mission data, but it also means that we can act as a force of innovation within this enterprise and make us all stronger going forward.” Added Wing Commander McCormack.

“The ACURL also plays a vital role in keeping the F-35 safe. They are obviously a very costly platform and the work we do here is vital to their survivability, hence another reason why the UK and Australia have invested so much money in this facility. We can make sure that our F-35 aircrew are as protected as they possibly can be. That is what motivates the men and women that work here.”

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