The U.S. Department of Defense announced a $49.2 million contract to Pratt and Whitney (P&W) to manufacture engines for F-35 Lightning II Block 4 fighter aircraft.
This contract provides for one conventional take-off and landing and two short take-off/vertical landing F135 engines to support F-35 Lightning II Block Four developmental testing program, a U.S. DoD release said.
The U.S. Marine Corps’ F-35Bs and the Navy’s catapult-launched F-35Cs will receive incremental Block 4 upgrades (Block 4.1, 4.2, and onwards) in the coming months. The Block 4 upgrades will include faster computers, more missiles, panoramic cockpit display, longer ranges, and AI-flown wingmen (such as the XQ-58A “Valkyrie.”
The main computers of Block 4 jets will reportedly be able to receive 25 times more instructions than current onboard computers. This will allow the aircraft to draw more data from friendly sources and provide increased electronic warfare capabilities.
Block 4 incremental software upgrades improves F-35’s APG-81 AESA radar, Sensor Fusion, and Distributed Aperture System (DAS).
The jet can presently carry four AIM-120 AMRAAM medium range air-to-air missiles while preserving its stealthy profile. The new “Sidekick” missile launch system included in Block 4 upgrade squeezes two more AMRAAM missiles into the existing belly-mounted missile bay. The jet will also eventually carry the under-development AIM-260 missile, hypersonic weapons, plus a new missile designed to chase down and destroy ground-based radars.
New wing-mounted drop tanks to be added is expected to increase the F-35’s range by 25%, giving it a combat range of about 1186km at the cost of greater radar visibility.