LONDON --- The United Kingdom has yet to decide if it will upgrade its Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) combat aircraft with the new Distributed Aperture System (DAS) announced earlier in the month.
Answering questions in the House of Commons, Guto Bebb, Minister for Defence Procurement, said that a decision on whether or not to swap the current Northrop Grumman AN/AAQ-37 DAS with a new system to be developed by Raytheon will be made “once [the government] understand[s] the time and cost implications”.
“As with all upgrades, this will be undertaken as part of the future capability development programme,” he said on 19 June. “Costs have not yet been negotiated or agreed.”
Bebb’s comments came five days after Lockheed Martin announced that from Lot 15 production in 2023 it is to switch DAS suppliers to “enhance capability and reduce cost”.
This timeline coincides with the commencement of deliveries of Block 4 (now known as Continuous Capability Development and Delivery [C2D2]) full-operating configuration in the early 2020s, which will be the first post-system design and development (SDD) standard (Block 4 is to be rolled out in increments from 2020, with the full configuration being made available from 2023). (end of excerpt)
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(EDITOR’S NOTE: The is no hurry for F-35 operators to decide, as the new Raytheon DAS will only be available, together with the Block 4 upgrade, until after 2023, when the first Lot 15 production aircraft will begin to roll off the assembly lines.
At that time, the feasibility of retrofitting early production aircraft with the Raytheon DAS (and other Block 4 improvements, such as new computer, new EOTS and new panoramic cockpit display) will depend on their availability, as priority will obviously go to new aircraft on the production line.
By our count, in 2023 there will be 343 “export” F-35s needing an upgrade, although given the high price of the upgrade it is probable some customers will prefer to skip it.)