Lightning Strikes Twice

The AGM-88E anti-radar missile will be integrated onboard the F-35A. This will further enhance the aircraft’s ability to support the SEAD mission.

The Australian and Italian air forces may have their F-35As modified to deploy the AGM-88E anti-radar missile.

Lockheed Martin has won a contract worth $9.3 million to integrate Northrop Grumman’s AGM-88E Advanced Anti-Radiation Guided Mission-Extended Range weapon onto the F-35A. The enhancement of the aircraft with the AGM-88E represents the latest step in configuring the Alpha variant of the F-35 to support the Suppression of Enemy Air Defence (SEAD) mission.

This latest contract follows an earlier award on 2nd June worth $26.7 million from the US Department of Defence to Lockheed Martin to configure the F-35A for SEAD. As Armada reported at the time, the upgrade was expected to enhance the aircraft’s BAE Systems’ AN/ASQ-239 electronic warfare system with the necessary algorithms to detect, locate and extract the parameters of potentially hostile radars.

HARM done

The AGM-88E is a greatly enhanced version of Raytheon’s AGM-88B/C HARM (High Speed Anti-Radiation Missile). Two new AGM-88 variants have been developed, the AGM-88E and Raytheon’s AGM-88F; the latter of which is expected to equip the US Air Force. The missiles have several important enhancements. These include a global positioning and inertial navigation system allowing the missile to target a radar based on its coordinates even if the radar’s transmissions are switched off to break the missile’s lock. A millimetric wave radar transmitting at frequencies above 30 gigahertz has been added to help battle damage assessment by gathering detailed imagery of the missile’s end game helping to ascertain the accuracy of the engagement.

Missile Integration

While the June contract may cover the integration of the AGM-88F on the USAF’s F-35A jets, this latest contract will enable air forces which have ordered the F-35A deploy AGM-88E rounds they have also procured. To date two nations, namely Australia and Italy, have ordered the F-35A and AGM-88E. Jets that they are already flying; six in the Royal Australian Air Force out of an eventual total of 84 and nine out of an eventual total of 60 for the Aeronautica Militare (Italian Air Force) could be retrofitted with the necessary structural and software modifications to deploy the AGM-88E, with these enhancements fitted as standard on new-build aircraft.

by Dr. Thomas Withington