LONDON - British F-35s will use Airbus technology to help store, distribute and protect encrypted information on the combat jet when it comes into operation in 2018.
Airbus Defence and Space has secured a deal to supply what's known as local key management system (LKMS) technology for the strike aircraft and two other British military aircraft types – the Voyager A330 inflight refuelling jet and Hercules C-130J airlifters – in a deal recently struck with the British Ministry of Defence.
The deal could open the door to sales of the technology to a restricted list of other air forces, including F-35 customers.
"I see no reason why we cannot offer this technology to other F-35 users," said Phil Jones, the head of cyber security operations for Airbus Defence in the UK.
The high sensitivity of the ITAR-free technology may mean Airbus will have to develop an export version for all but a handful of countries,he said.
Airbus is already supplying the technology, developed at its south Wales facility, to British Typhoon combat jets and A400M airlifters.
LKMS receives, translates and packages cryptographic keys so that they can be loaded using a single hand held device into what are known as end crypto units (ECUs) on the aircraft. Input of the crypto information is through a single plug and socket rather than the seven or eight interface points and different handheld devices required previously.
Company officials said the technology permits prolonged out-of-area operation through providing the ability to store and distribute multiple cryptographic keys.
The technology also provides high levels of protection for encrypted data by preventing data compromise that could threaten the safety and security of an aircraft mission, they said.
The crypto technology is likely to eventually find it's way on to helicopters, unmanned air vehicles and other platforms, but company officials were unwilling to comment on potential discussion with the UK MoD about adding the technology to other aircraft. It did however confirm initial conversations with the MoD about the technology's suitability for the new Boeing P-8 maritime patrol aircraft being purchased for the Royal Air Force.
Jones said the use of technology is not just confined to aerospace applications.
"The technology has maritime applications in surface ships and submarines and we are in the early stages of looking at it for critical infrastructure and industrial control systems use as well," he said.
Andrew Chuter is the United Kingdom correspondent for Defense News.