The F-35 Lightning II Will Get A New Radar

F-35 APG-85


F-35 APG-85
A U.S. Air Pressure F-35A of the 493rd Fighter Squadron in the course of the current Falcon Strike 2022 train in Italy. (Photograph: Stefano D’Urso/The Aviationist)

The brand new APG-85 radar will change the older APG-81 on the upcoming Block 4 fighters.

Final yr, the U.S. Air Pressure’s unfunded want record for Fiscal 12 months 2023 talked about the procurement of seven F-35A in Block 4 configuration with the APG-85 radar, a part of the Lot 17 manufacturing contract. This information, first mentioned by Defense News after it appeared on the funds presentation’s slides, was initially dismissed as a typo rather than the APG-81 designation of the radar at present employed by the F-35.

When the identical APG-85 designation appeared once more in December, doubts began to come up. That’s when The War Zone was able to receive answers from the F-35 Joint Program Workplace (JPO), which confirmed that there’s certainly a brand new radar within the works for the fifth gen fighter jet within the Block 4 configuration.

“The U.S. Air Pressure, Navy, and Marine Corps are collectively growing and integrating a sophisticated radar for the F-35 Lightning II, which is able to defeating present and projected adversarial air and floor threats,” mentioned the F-35 JPO. “This superior radar will probably be suitable with all variants of the F-35 plane.”

The F-35 is at present outfitted with the Northrop Grumman AN/APG-81 lively electronically scanned array (AESA) radar, the successor of the F-22’s APG-77 radar and whose improvement began in 2001. The APG-81 is taken into account the cornerstone of the F-35’s sensor suite and gives a robust battlespace situational awareness.

Right here is how Northrop Grumman describes the radar on its web site:

The AN/APG-81 radar has long-range lively and passive air-to-air and air-to-ground modes that help a full vary of air-to-air and air-to-surface missions complemented by stealth options together with vital digital warfare and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities.

In air-to air-combat, The AN/APG-81 gives lengthy vary functionality permitting the pilot to detect, observe, establish and shoot a number of menace plane earlier than the adversary detects the F-35. This presents a primary look, first shot, and first kill functionality.

In air-to-ground fight, this revolutionary, all-weather, precision focusing on AESA gives the warfare fighter with unprecedented situational consciousness and detection using its floor and maritime modes. The AN/APG-81 radar can detect, exactly find, and with support of its ultra-high-resolution Artificial Aperture Radar (SAR) mapping mode, can establish and interact army targets with excellent reliability.

The AN/APG-81 epitomizes the F-35’s multi-role mission requirement showcasing the strong digital warfare (EW) capabilities and might function as an EW aperture using the AESA’s multi-function array (MFA). Totally adept at digital safety (EP), digital assault (EA) and digital help measures (ESM) it permits the F-35 the unparalleled functionality to suppress and destroy probably the most superior enemy air defenses.

Northrop Grumman says the 1,000th APG-81 radar will probably be delivered this yr and greater than 3,000 are anticipated to be constructed all through the lifetime of this system. It isn’t recognized now how the now radar will change these quantity, because the accessible unclassified particulars are few. It is usually unknown if this radar will probably be accessible to all F-35 customers or if will probably be a US-only system.

With out figuring out the rest, the APG-85 is perhaps a closely modified APG-81, to such extent that it required a brand new designation, or a totally new radar being developed. The truth is, if that was simply an improve, the designation would have been APG-81v1, as achieved for other radars. Additionally, it has not been specified who’s going to fabricate the brand new radar.

An F-35A Lightning II fighter jet assigned to the sixth Weapons Squadron, U.S. Air Pressure Weapons College, takes off for a coaching mission at Nellis Air Pressure Base, Nevada, Dec. 13, 2022. (U.S. Air Pressure picture by William R. Lewis)

The radar is likely one of the over 75 main upgrades anticipated to be included within the Block 4. Among the many upgrades there are enhancements of the Electronic Warfare capabilities, radar and electro-optical techniques, weapons, cockpit and navigation techniques. A few of these upgrades will probably be delivered in increments till the ultimate configuration, for which an engine improve is perhaps required with a view to present extra energy to all of the techniques.

Among the many unclassified upgrades there are a next generation Distributed Aperture System, a brand new Built-in Core Processor, cooling techniques enhancements, new Digital Warfare processor and antennas. Unclassified slides from Lockheed Martin additionally present Auto Floor Collision Avoidance System integration, a brand new Open System Structure (a part of the Tech Refresh 3), Multi-Area Operations and Missile Protection capabilities, Manned-Unmanned Teaming and prolonged vary with using exterior gasoline tanks.

Nonetheless, the vast majority of the small print in regards to the Block 4 upgrades are categorized. Usually thought-about the F-35’s most bold improve, the Block 4 is supposed to assist preserve the Lightning II’s preventing edge over potential adversaries through 2070. Tech Refresh 3 is taken into account important with a view to ship this improve and the long run ones, as it’s described because the IT spine for all future enhancements.

Forbes reported some extra particulars, saying that TR3 is being put in in all new manufacturing plane, together with the Lot 15 plane at present being delivered, and retrofitted on all of the F-35s already in service again to Lot 10. The retrofit, which requires 14 days of downtime, will probably be carried out throughout scheduled upkeep. This manner the F-35 will migrate to the open-system architecture and exploit all the benefits we regularly reported, like including new or improved capabilities on operational plane in a short time and at a lowered price.

In line with Forbes, the Block 4 contains 17 new weapons, the vast majority of them kinetic, however some additionally non-kinetic, such Electronic Attack capabilities for an occasion. Block 4 additionally enhances networking functionality with different tactical techniques to allow built-in, long-range “kill webs”, masking multiple warfighting domains with the fusion of sensor inputs from numerous sources, considerably confirming the information from the Lockheed Martin slides we talked about.

Anyway, as we already talked about, most information in regards to the upcoming F-35 Block 4 configuration are categorized, so we are going to solely be allowed to find only a small a part of the highly advanced, next generation technology that goes into the fifth gen fighter. Which means that, simply as for the present APG-81 radar, it’s doable that we are going to know solely only a few particulars in regards to the future APG-85 radar, however we are going to remember to report about them when they are going to be publicly launched.

Stefano D’Urso is a contract journalist and contributor to TheAviationist based mostly in Lecce, Italy. A graduate in Industral Engineering he is additionally learning to attain a Grasp Diploma in Aerospace Engineering. Digital Warfare, Loitering Munitions and OSINT strategies utilized to the world of army operations and present conflicts are amongst his areas of experience.


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