By the early 2000’s, the U.S. Air Force was in development of a newer, faster, more high-performance fighter aircraft - the F-22 Advanced Tactical Fighter. Modifications were made to the existing MLD system which was installed on the F-22 and used for several years. Lockheed Martin later initiated a Pre-Planned Product Improvement (P31) effort to significantly upgrade the MLD system which included, among other technological advances, a new infrared lens assembly with strict tolerance specifications that were well above tolerance levels currently used in the industry. Further, after the validation of seven new prototypes, Lockheed Martin would release the first Lot of 100 assemblies for fabrication under an extremely tight deadline and budget framework.
The aerospace manufacturing giant turned to II-VI Optical Systems and their proven optical engineering, diamond turning and testing expertise to help them with the planned product improvement. The challenge was clear - the project team must create an opto-mechanical design that met demanding tolerances, while also achieving a high level of manufacturability and cost-efficacies.