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Lockheed Solution Tracks Fighter Jet Parts Around the World

The RFID-, GPS-, cellular- and satellite-based system allows the aerospace company to track the components of multiple aircraft lines from when the parts are packed in containers until they reach their destination.
By Claire Swedberg
Mar 17, 2019

Lockheed Martin's Rotary and Mission Systems (RMS) and Aeronautics division has expanded an RFID program to include its F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, and is now tracking the components it makes for three different aircraft as those items are shipped to customers around the world. The technology, combining RFID, GPS, cellular and satellite connectivity, has boosted its efficiency, the company reports. It has also ensured that goods do not end up missing, while tracking the conditions in real time, so that the aerospace firm can understand if temperatures, humidity or impact during transit may damage the high-value components.

The technology, provided by Curo International, consists of active 433 MHz RFID tags on aircraft components, which transmit sensor data to wireless, battery-powered GPS devices. The units not only read the tags but capture data regarding environmental conditions, then forward the collected information to Lockheed Martin's server via satellite or cellular connectivity, along with longitude and latitude readings.

Lockheed Martin's F-35 Joint Strike Fighter
Curo International's iTrakG enterprise software captures and manages the data behind Lockheed Martin's firewall. The deployment is a finalist for this year's RFID Journal Awards in the Best RFID Deployment category. The award winners will be announced during the RFID Journal LIVE! conference and exhibition, to be held in Phoenix, Ariz., on April 2-4.

Lockheed's history with RFID spans more than a decade (see Lockheed Martin to Buy Active RFID Leader Savi and Lockheed Martin Uses RFID to Help Track Stealth Fighter). The company initially launched an RFID initiative selecting hardware and software from dozens of providers to begin creating solutions for use in-house, as well as to provide in-transit visibility and in-health monitoring for the components shipped to customer sites to be assembled around the world. In the long term, the company hopes to see RFID tags on components used by its customers for such actions as maintenance and repair.

Lockheed RMS selected Curo International as its provider of software and hardware for an RFID and GPS global tracking system, says Kimberly Gray, Curo International's CEO. Initially, the aerospace company found that its customers who purchase components or aircraft from Lockheed had some trepidation regarding the use of RFID, according to Corey Cook, Lockheed Martin's senior solutions architect for enterprise sustainment solutions. Some had deployed early RFID systems, and had found the cost to be greater than the benefits.

So in 2011, Lockheed Martin's Logistics and Sustainment division created a library of RFID capabilities for its customers, including a listing of tags, readers and software platforms that are available, as well as the key functionality and advantages of each. In the meantime, the company began using RFID in house for tracking personnel at its production site in Fort Worth, Texas.

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