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The F-35 Block 4 fighter will receive more missiles and kamikaze drones

WASHINGTON, (BM) – Lockheed Martin has published the F-35 Lightning II fighter upgrade program until 2030. The version will be called Block 4 and will be updated gradually – mainly due to delays in the development of the necessary software, learned BulgarianMilitary.com citing Aviation Week.

Read more: The F-35’s data is the ‘apple of discord’ between US Government and Lockheed

The aircraft will need a lot of programs, since one of the key changes will be the 25 times increased computing capabilities of the F-35 on-board computers. This is due to the processing of information from a much larger number of active and passive aircraft sensors.

The 2030 fighter will be able to carry in the fuselage compartment not four AIM-120 air-to-air missiles, as it is now, but six thanks to the new Sidekick launch system.

The aircraft’s arsenal will be replenished with AIM-260 missiles with an increased flight range and a specialized missile for destroying radars. They all have the same length as the AIM-120.

Another reason why Lightning II needed much more powerful computers is unmanned slaves with artificial intelligence. They, of course, are also not without electronic brains, but the fighter’s computer will develop general tactics and control their actions. The drones are planned to be used for both striking and defense. For example, they will distract missiles aimed at the F-35.

The new update is more than needed by America, but will it solve the financial problems?

America has for many years used the flagship F-35 as the most successful and high-tech stealth project in military history, not only for the US military but for the world as well. Last year, as we reported, information that is worrying about the future of the F-35 program is increasingly emerging.

Read more: Dogfight! Russia’s Su-35 and Su-57 vs. F-35 Stealth Fighter Jet

In a recent hearing in the House Armed Forces Committee, it became clear that only one part of the aircraft is capable of performing combat missions, exactly one-third of the entire available F-35 fleet.

The problems are serious and have been around for many years. The Pentagon and Lockheed Martin are still litigating who owns and is entitled to the F-35 program codes and this is the one of the problems.

Washington’s political circles continue to argue that the state is making too much concessions to the manufacturer, which could prove to be a serious problem that would determine Lockheed Martin as a monopolist in the military market.

Also, the Pentagon was complaining of damages and defects, which are already starting to happen frequently. According to military analysts at the Pentagon, the F-35 has a long time to respond to military capabilities and targets for their implementation.

The source of this information was Bloomberg’s US edition and a statement by Robert Becler, responsible for US weapons testing. According to him, planes are failing more often than acceptable and maintenance costs are increasing significantly.

Increasing support costs are cited by increasing threats from Russia and China, as well as from Islamic terrorist groups. At least such an explanation was given some time ago by US President Donald Trump.

Read more: Chinese air defense systems intercepted F-35s in Iraqi airspace, sources said

All this leads to a clear and long silent fact – the program has problems maintaining aircraft combat readiness. Spare parts for all aircraft are missing, many of them do not receive timely system updates due to poor, timely or lack of funding. There are even problems in the logistics that have to transport planes to accomplish tasks across the globe.

All of these internal conflicts are not good for the US F-35 Navy, but many partners are also likely to begin to hold the US accountable for the manufactured F-35s that are in service in many other countries.

Australia, for example, has found a problem with corrosion. We recall that on May 2019 the Australian defence officials have been urged to consider round-the-clock dehumidification systems at an Air Forcebase near Newcastle to curb the corrosion risk for its fleet of Joint Strike Fighter jets.

Auditing and consulting firm KPMG was tasked with doing a report on the “intergranular corrosion mitigation options” for the 72 F-35A fighter jets, bought by the Australian Defence Force for $17 billion.

Concerns over the risk of metal stress and cracking were raised in 2017, the year before the next-generation fighters were due to come to Australia.

The FOI report obtained by the ABC said of the three bases where the jets would be based, only Williamtown, near Newcastle, had been identified as having potential problems. The risk is posed by salt and other climatic conditions.

Read more: Top 5 best fifth generation fighter jets in the World

On the other hand, Turkey’s withdrawal from the program due to the purchase of the Russian C-400 proves to be an even greater challenge to the existence of the F-35 program.

Experts estimate that Lockheed Martin’s losses from this US government action would be close to $ 1 billion. The task of the US is to find a replacement for Turkey to produce with the same quality and at the same low price if it wants to keep the F-35 competitive in international markets.

The F-35’s data is still the ‘apple of discord’ between US Government and Lockheed

The US Department of Defense and the American company Lockheed Martin are fighting for access to the Failure reporting, analysis and corrective action system (FRACAS) data of the fifth generation F-35 Lightning II fighter, as we reported on March this year.

Referring to the words of a former employee of the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) program, in which the Pentagon leads the creation of the F-35 Lightning II, the publication writes that the military is interested in the FRACAS data set regarding the average time of failure of various components of the aircraft, in particular radars.

According sources that such information will allow the military to determine the list of fighter components whose service life is actually 5 thousand hours, although, according to the design documentation, should be equal to 10 thousand hours, and parts whose repair takes too much time.

The Pentagon does not agree with such requirements of Lockheed Martin, which considers FRACAS data to be its intellectual property. The military, however, claim that the company owns only the rights to the construction of the aircraft.

Read more: Top 5 best fighter jets by the number of air victories in the World

In March, Lockheed Martin delivered a five-hundredth serial F-35 Lightning II fighter to the customer. In January, the company promised to produce 180 units of F-35 Lightning II each year by 2024.

More about F-35 fighter jet

The F-35 Lightning II family of fifth-generation fighter jets has been produced since 2001 by the world’s largest military-industrial corporation Lockheed Martin. The aircraft is offered in three basic versions: A (for the air force), B (with a short take-off and vertical landing) and C (deck). The unification of the components of the three modifications reaches 70-90 percent.

F-35 Lightning II should become the main fighters of the first half of the XXI century in at least 11 countries – the USA, Great Britain, Australia, Italy, Canada, Norway, the Netherlands and Denmark, Israel, Japan and South Korea. The leading role in the development of the fighter belongs to the first two states (more than 50 percent of the components are produced by the USA, 15 percent – in the UK).

In total, it is planned to produce more than four thousand F-35 Lightning II.

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