BAE Gets $493 Million Contract to Upgrade F-35’s Electronic Warfare Suite

BAE Systems will upgrade the F-35’s electronic warfare system for the jet’s Block 4 upgrade under a $493 million contract awarded by Lockheed Martin, BAE Systems said Dec. 15. The new system will go into F-35 production starting with Lot 17 in 2024.

“This contract provides funding for the development and maturation of the Block 4 EW hardware baseline” for the F-35, Lisa Aucoin, BAE Systems’ vice president for F-35 solutions, said by email. When complete, the upgrade will bring “discriminating capabilities to outpace emerging and evolving threats,” she added. Lockheed Martin is the prime contractor for the F-35.

The EW upgrade has been described as the centerpiece of the F-35 Block 4 improvements, made possible by new processors installed under the Tech Refresh 3 program.  

The contract will provide more powerful core hardware for the AN/ASQ-239 EW system, along with engineering support services and test infrastructure. The upgrade will “improve superior situational awareness and electromagnetic attack and countermeasures capabilities with new sensors and more powerful signal processing,” BAE said in a press release.

The AN/ASQ-239 “collects and processes electromagnetic energy in signal-dense and contested environments,” Aucoin said. “It combines offensive and defensive EW capabilities, including broadband radar warning and radar suppression, targeting support, and multi-spectral countermeasures to provide situational awareness and self-protection.”

The system is designed for continuous capability development, or CCD, which enables “rapid future upgrades,” BAE said, adding that the system has modular architecture for more efficient upgrades “across the global F-35 fleet.” The system also includes the Non-Intrusive Electronic Warfare Test Solution (NIEWTS) fault isolation and diagnostics capability, which “enables precise troubleshooting that further reduces maintenance costs,” BAE said.

The capabilities in the upgraded AN/ASQ-239 “will be leveraged to other platforms to ensure all warfighters have the most advanced EW capability at the ready,” Aucoin said in the news release. It will allow friendly forces to “outpace evolving threats.”

In addition to the EW system, BAE also manufactures the jet’s aft fuselage, “active interceptor control system,” and vehicle management computer at plants in Australia, the U.K., and the U.S. The company is also producing the Eagle Passive Active Warning and Survivability System (EPAWSS), which will protect the F-15C, F-15E, and new F-15EX.

The contract for F-35 Lots 15-17 was expected in late October or early November but has still not been announced.