Lockheed Martin will develop a structural modification for F-35 strike fighters to improve its Suppression/Destruction of Enemy Air Defenses capability (SEAD/DEAD).
On June 1, the Pentagon awarded a $26.8 million contract for the retrofit design that will be applied to F-35 jets of the United States and its allies. “This modification supports non-recurring engineering efforts to develop and certify a retrofit solution to support the structural requirements for full-up destruction and suppression of enemy air defenses capabilities for Lot 14 and Lot 15 F-35A Lightning II combat aircraft for the Air Force and non-Department of Defense (DOD) participants,” Pentagon said in a release.
Work is expected to be complete by August 2022.
The performance of F-35’s SEAD/DEAD suite was not up to the mark in 2016, when the jets were declared operational by the US Air Force. Structural modifications might include arming the jets with new munitions and/or sensors to carry out the role, which usually involves detecting, fixing, and attacking ground-based air defense threats, which can be mobile or stationary.
The F-35A jet in 3i configuration that had the ability to release satellite-guided bombs achieved initial operational capability. With the 3F version, the F-35 gained capability for the GBU-39 Small Diameter Bomb and AGM-154 Stand-Off Weapon, that are used for SEAD/DEAD. The Block 4 upgrade will enable the F-35 to carry the in-development Stand-in Attack Weapon (SiAW). The jet may also be armed with AGM-88E Anti-Radiation Guided Missile in future with both, the Air Force and the Navy, considering it. The missile targets surface-to-air missile radar at high speed, which could dissuade the adversary from turning it on.
The F-35’s ASQ-239 electronic warfare system can passively detect an enemy air defense system’s emissions and geo-locate these targets in concert with the F-35’s other systems.