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BAE Systems to upgrade electronic warfare system for Block 4 F-35

BAE Systems Inc is to upgrade the EW systems of the Block 4 F-35 under a USD493 million award from Lockheed Martin. (US Air Force)

BAE Systems has been contracted to upgrade the electronic warfare (EW) system of the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter (JSF), the company announced on 15 December.

BAE Systems Inc, the US subsidiary of BAE Systems plc, has received USD493 million from Lockheed Martin to “significantly upgrade and modernise” the F-35's EW system as part of the wider Block 4 (also known as Continuous Capability Development and Delivery) enhancement.

“Under the contract, BAE Systems will deliver enhanced and highly capable core hardware for the F-35's high-performance EW mission system, known as AN/ASQ-239, and will provide engineering support services and test infrastructure. The upgraded system will improve superior situational awareness and electromagnetic attack and countermeasure capabilities with new sensors and more powerful signal processing,” the company said.

As noted in the announcement, the new EW system's modular architecture is designed to allow for quick hardware upgrades that reduce life cycle and retrofit costs, and support faster software updates across the global F-35 fleet. The system also includes the Non-Intrusive Electronic Warfare Test Solution fault isolation and diagnostics capability, which enables precise troubleshooting to further reduce maintenance costs.

Launched in 2018, the Block 4 upgrade will enable the F-35 to employ its full panoply of sensors and munitions, and is being carried out in four increments of Block 4.1, 4.2, 4.3, and 4.4. Block 4.1 and 4.3 are primarily software updates affording new capabilities and correcting deficiencies carried over from the earlier development programme, such as the prognostics health management system downlink and communication capabilities, while Block 4.2 and 4.4 consist of more significant hardware changes.

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