PATUXENT RIVER NAVAL AIR STATION: You climb up into your new Joint Strike fighter in your flight suit, pull on the flight helmet and say, “Hey darling, It’s Squirt. Set up my screens the way I like em and let’s go get some bad guys.”
OK. The latest software in Lockheed Martin’s Joint Strike Fighter isn’t quite that much fun or as flexible as Apple’s Siri voice command software on the new iPhone, but it does allow pilots to issue certain voice commands to the aircraft.
No, you can’t tell it to find the most recent leader of Al Shabab in Somalia and blow up his Toyota. But you can sign in to the plane (supplemented with some highly classified ways to convince the plane you have permission to fly it) with your voice, change radio frequencies, alter the radio’s volume and have it set up the two touch screens that give you most of your weapons and flight information just the way you like them.
It also allows you to program and turn on the aircraft’s Identify Friend or Foe (IFF) system, key to the plane’s ability to track where you and your enemies are.
Since this is the first effort at doing this, not everything is working fabulously yet. “Some of the commands work better than others,” Marine Lt. Col. Matt Kelly told me and a colleague Friday. Kelly is one of the test pilots flying the F-35 at Patuxent River Naval Air Station. His call sign is Squirt. “It’s not quite there yet.”
Biggest let down about the new software? It “won’t be used for weapons release,” Kelly said before Defense Secretary Leon Panetta’s speech here. Just imagine: “Darlin, arm the port Sidewinder missile. Please shoot that bastard on my tail. Thank you. Then let’s go home.”