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Northrop Grumman developing new AESA radar for F-35

An F-35B short take-off and vertical landing variant and F-35C carrier variant aircraft fly together over Fort Worth, Texas, on functional check flights on 14 March 2013. (Lockheed Martin)

Engineers at Northrop Grumman are developing a new advanced active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar for the F-35 Lightning II, which company officials say will be compatible with all variants of the advanced stealth fighter jet.

Work within the company's electronic systems directorate is ongoing on the AN/APG-85, which will replace the current AN/APG-81 AESA fire-control radar employed aboard the F-35, according to an 11 January Northrop Grumman statement. The system's development will “be capable of defeating current and projected adversarial air and surface threats … [and] incorporate some of the latest technologies available and help ensure air superiority” for the US armed forces and allied forces fielding the F-35, company officials added in the statement.

A Northrop Grumman spokesperson declined queries by Janes , requesting information on the radar's ongoing development, projected capabilities, and whether the new AESA platform will be made available to partner countries in the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) consortium. Northrop Grumman is also the prime manufacturer for the current AN/APG-81 AESA system.

The AN/APG-81 radar is based on the AN/APG-68 and AN/APG-77 ASEA variants and features 12 air-to-air modes and 12 air-to-ground modes – which include maritime modes for tracking sea-based targets and support search-and-rescue operations – four electronic warfare (EW) modes and four navigation and weather modes.

The most recent variant, the Block 4 version, includes three new electronic protection packages for the EW modes, focused on defending electromagnetic spectrum operations (EMSO) emanating from land, sea, or air domains.

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