The background to all of this is a post done by Bill Sweetman a few years ago here. It is key to looking into this topic.
First; neither Lockheed Martin nor the U.S. DOD F-35 JSF project office decide what low observable technology/methods (and supporting counter-low observable technology/methods) are exportable. The U.S government composed of many agencies (with numerous conflicting views) makes the decision.
Exceptions to National Disclosure Policy
US Export Control Objectives
Technology Transfer & Disclosure Processes
- Protect US investment in sensitive technologies
- Preserve war fighter advantage
- Maintain technology lead
- Prevent exposure/exploitation of vulnerabilities, limitations
- Limit proliferation of capabilities for which US has no countermeasures
- Limit proliferation of weapons of mass destruction
National Disclosure Policy Committee
- Four main technology transfer & disclosure processes:
- National Disclosure Policy Committee
- Low Observable/Counter Low Observable Executive Committee
- Committee on National Security Systems (COMSEC)
- Export Licensing
Low Observable/Counter Low Observable Executive Committee (LO/CLO ExCom)
- Adjudicates requests that exceed service/agency delegated authority to disclose classified military information to foreign governments and international organizations
- Exception to National Disclosure Policy (ENDP)
- DUSD(TSP&CP)/NDP is secretariat
- Sponsoring Mildep/agency prepares request-approximately 30 days
- Normal NDPC suspense is 10 working days
- NDPC chairman's decision after 30 days if no consensus
- Decision can be appealed to Deputy Secretary of Defense
Committee on National Security Systems (CNSS)
- Adjudicates requests to/transfer LO and CLO technologies, capabilities, information to foreign governments and international organizations
- USD(AT&L) Director of Special Programs is executive secretariat
- Tri-Service first level review within 45 days of request
- Refers issues to ExCom depending on sensitivity
- Charters Red/Blue teams (90 days to complete review)
- Some cases may take several months to resolve
Low Observable/Counter Low Observable Executive Committee (LO/CLO ExCom)
- Adjudicates requests proposals to transfer COMSEC/CRYPTO equipment/codes for C4ISR systems (GPS/PPS, Mode IV IFF, KY radios, data links, etc.)
- To support valid interoperability requirements with allies and coalition partners
- NSA is CNSS executive agent
- Requires COCOM validated interoperability requirement to JCS J6 (CJCSI 6510.01B)
- NSA Release in principle (RIP), CNSS Release in Specific (RIS)-specific equipment (type, number) for specific requirement
- COCOM negotiates CISMOA with country
- Process can take several months or more
- Major international programs will involve all release/export control processes
- Many "moving parts"-3 committees, 5 major processes, 23 agencies
- Numerous laws, executive orders, policies, regulations apply
- No single USG official or agency is responsible for overall management of foreign disclosure and export control requirements
- Processes usually do not run concurrently
- Competing/conflicting equities involved
- May take several months to conplete/reach consensus
- Key to success is PLANNING
- Disclosure and export control requirements must be integral part of overall planning
How exactly does the special LO/CLO Excom team work? Not much is known but from this paper, (PDF- Hamilton L. Howard, Major, USAF,IMPACTS OF F-22 AND JOINT STRIKE FIGHTER EXPORTS TO THE MIDDLE EAST, April 2006) there is this quote.
"With regards to exporting stealth technology, the export system is extended to yet another level. Information on stealth and Low Observable (LO) systems can only be released by the US Secretary of Defense. He is advised by the National Disclosure Policy Committee (NDPC) and the LO/Counter LO Executive Committee (LO/CLO Excom). The NDPC is made up of interagency representatives from the military services and intelligence agencies and makes recommendations concerning release of all classified information. The LO/CLO Excom is chaired by the under secretary of defense for acquisition, technology, and logistics and has representatives from the LO office of each service. The LO/CLO Excom makes inputs not only about protecting technology, but also about secret, non-public released programs"
Next, one has to consider things like the ABC’s; (Australia, Britain and Canada). They have a known lower risk to low observable technology security than any other U.S. allied nation. (PDF- Matthew H. Molloy, Lt Col, USAF, U.S. MILITARY AIRCRAFT FOR SALE: CRAFTING AN F-22 EXPORT POLICY, June 2000 ) Hence the reason why LM and USAF were able to make an attempt at marketing the F-22 to Australia as a full-up USAF configuration.
The important take away from Paris a few days ago and Sweetman’s original article a few years ago is the quote that JSF partner nations will receive an aircraft that meets their requirements. The key word is “their”. All JSF partner nations signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU). This means they agree to the terms of that MOU (both classified and unclassified).
It is difficult to believe that an ABC has the same low observable security risk as Israel (who exported U.S. technology to communist China some years ago and had their access to the JSF program put on probation). Also, it would be hard to believe that we would allow Turkey the same access as an ABC.
Certainly there are only 3 versions of the F-35. However, all the money spent via government contracts on Delta-SDD indicates that there are certainly different “configurations”.
The configurations by-country could include anti-tamper technology built into the jet that will shut down certain systems if access is attempted in the wrong way. This also can include geo-locating devices that do not allow the aircraft to have full combat capability when outside of a certain box. A perfect example of this would be Pakistan’s new F-16s. “Configurations” for the same model of aircraft can also include things like lower radar resolution the Saudi’s agreed to with F-15s purchased from the U.S.
There are other ways to have different flavors in those “configurations" for the F-35. For instance certain threat radar codes may be in some F-35s and not others. In the F-35, some configurations may display a different threat ring behaviour than other configurations. Then there are other ways for configuring the F-35 to meet “their” requirements. Certain weapons may have limited capability when attached to certain F-35 configurations.
Another option to deal with all of this is to have the jet dumbed down to the lowest common denominator for everyone involved. Although I doubt the USAF or USN would define that as meeting “their requirements”.
All of this can determine if a certain F-35 configuration can exploit its full stealth potential.
While a U.S. F-35 may be off the same assembly line as another partner nation, I wouldn’t count on the configurations being all the same. And, when dealing with U.S. export of military equipment; these ideas are nothing new.
UPDATE: Block 1B software—includes multi-level security functions and is the minimum block for international partners to participate in using the aircraft.