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02:01 AM, June 8, 2019
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Lockheed Martin Awarded $1.8 Billion for F-35 Block 4 Development
F-35 Stealth Fighter of the US Marine Corps: USMC photo

Lockheed Martin has been awarded a $1,808,545,655 contract for continued design maturation and development of Block 4 capabilities in support of the F-35 Lightning II Phase 2.3 Pre-Modernization for the United States Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps; and foreign customers.

Work is expected to be completed in August 2026. This contract combines purchases for the Air Force ($732,460,990; 40.50 percent); Navy ($371,475,278; 20.54 percent), Marine Corps ($345,974,784; 19.13 percent) and foreign customers ($358,634,603; 19.83 percent), a US DoD release said.

Though Block 4 capabilities have not been officially revealed, media report say it will include addition of or a fix to over 50 capabilities such as major performance upgrades and new weapons integration.

The F-35’s stealthy tight-beam Multifunction Advanced Datalink (MADL) will be made compatible with the Link 16 datalinks (used in F-16s, F-18s and a host of other US and allied aircraft) and also satellite communication which will significantly expand its communications networking ability. It will also gain the ability to stream video on the ground using Rover-NG systems.

The F-35’s APG-81 AESA radar will be equipped with a wide-area Synthetic Aperture mode to scan large swaths of terrain and track even small objects such as moving vehicles. It will then create a high-definition image and beam it to ground control for intelligence, navigation and weapons targeting.

Potential new weapons include the B-61 nuclear bomb, Small Diameter Bomb II, the JSOW-C and the AIM-9X Block II air-to-air missile and weapons integrated for European F-35 operators such as the Meteor missile made by MBDA. In addition, BAE Systems has been contracted to provide the ASQ-239 electronic warfare suite, which combines a 360 degree electromagnetic sensor to detect nearby threats with infrared and radar countermeasures.

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