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Lockheed Martin Uses RFID to Help Track Stealth Fighter

Lockheed Martin asked suppliers to its Joint Strike Fighter aircraft program to apply RFID labels to shipments by the end of 2008 and suggested RFID tagging requirements could be expanded to other suppliers. The Joint Strike Fighter features cutting-edge stealth and avionics technologies that also features innovation in the procurement process.
Mar 28, 2008This article was originally published by RFID Update.

March 28, 2008—Defense contractor Lockheed Martin has asked its suppliers who provide parts and materials for the new Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) aircraft to include RFID labels on those shipments by the end of this year. The Joint Strike Fighter, also known as the F-35 Lightning, is a next-generation stealth fighter aircraft that is the first to be jointly designed for use by the US Air Force, Army, and Navy.

"Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co. has communicated in a letter to its supplier base that all supply chain materials we procure for the first Low Rate Initial Production (LRIP 1) phase of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter Program -- and materials for all F-35 production phases beyond LRIP 1 -- will need to be delivered to us with RFID tagging. This requirement becomes effective in late 2008," the company said in an exclusive statement to RFID Update.

The Joint Strike Fighter is currently in limited production and is still in the test phase. The US Marine Corps is scheduled to take first delivery of the Joint Strike Fighter in 2012, according to the DoD. The plane is expected to eventually replace the US military's F-16 and A-10 aircraft.

Joe Stout, director of communications for Lockheed Martin Aeronautics, said previous reports that the company is requiring RFID tagging for additional aircraft and programs are erroneous. Lockheed's RFID labeling requirements only currently apply to JSF suppliers.

"This RFID tagging requirement does not extend to other Lockheed Martin Aeronautics programs such as the F-22, F-16, or C-130J. Certainly we are heading in that direction eventually," Stout said in a statement. "The requirement becomes effective in late 2008. The requirement does not apply to the F-35 test aircraft that are already in work, except for materials to be received in late 2008 and beyond."

As a defense contractor, Lockheed Martin itself must apply RFID labels on shipments to the DoD. Lockheed Martin asked its suppliers to use the same standardized military format for the RFID labels it receives. In its online supplier shipping instructions, Lockheed Martin specifies its suppliers use the same RFID shipping label standards -- MIL-STD-129 and DFARS -- as the DoD requires. These standards require the use of Gen2 RFID tags and specify the data to be encoded in them and where shipping labels should be placed.

Lockheed Martin is still developing RFID reading capabilities and applications, according to the statement. The statement suggests the program is motivated to better align the company with the DoD: "The Lockheed Martin requirement supports the Department of Defense's RFID objectives and standards. It will provide greater visibility of incoming supplies, which can improve supply chain efficiency and planning."

The Lockheed Martin program is another sign that defense industry RFID activity is picking up. The Defense Logistics Agency (DLA), which provides logistics services to all US military branches, recently contracted to expand RFID capabilities at its 21 distribution centers (see DLA to Expand RFID Labeling with $8.5M Order).

Lockheed Martin is involved in military RFID applications in multiple ways. The new supplier labeling requirements suggest the company uses RFID internally. Lockheed Martin also markets I-GUIDES software that helps DoD contractors meet RFID and other compliance marking requirements. Lockheed Martin is the parent company to Savi Technology, which provides the DoD and NATO with RFID systems for in-transit logistics tracking (see As Part of Lockheed, Savi Spreads RFID Around NATO). Last month Savi announced its contract to provide the DoD with RFID systems has been extended through January 2009, and that the maximum value was raised by $60 million to $483 million.
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