US confirms Bulgarian F-16s will receive L3Harris EW systems

The first [and all after] of Bulgaria’s F-16 Block 70/72 fighter jets expected next year, will feature the L3Harris AN/ALQ-254[V]1 Viper Shield electronic warfare system. This announcement came from the U.S. Department of Defense, highlighting that other operators, including the Kingdom of Bahrain, the Kingdom of Morocco, and the Slovak Republic, will also equip their F-16 Block 70/72 jets with this advanced system. 

First delivery of the Lockheed F-16 Block 70 fighter jet is done
Photo credit: Twitter

In November of last year, initial information about this development was released. However, with the recent confirmation from the DoD, it is now officially decided. Anna Gragosian, the company’s director of business development, had previously mentioned that this cutting-edge electronic warfare [EW] package addresses the limitations of its analog predecessors, notably their ability to detect only a single signal at a time. The Viper Shield’s digital framework allows it to simultaneously detect multiple signals, a significant advancement over older analog systems. 

L3Harris has received a contract to produce 166 Viper Shield systems for the latest Block 70/72 aircraft, aimed at “five international customers,” according to Gragosian. “The system is intricately designed to identify sophisticated radar systems, provide situational awareness, and ensure self-defense through electronic countermeasures,” she explained. “Equipped with digital receivers and transmission channels, it is exceptionally capable of handling today’s threats,” she concluded.

34 Iraqi F-16C/D Block 52Ms will get the L3Harris EW suites
Photo credit: L3Harris

The L3Harris AN/ALQ-254(V)1 Viper Shield is an advanced electronic warfare [EW] system designed to protect aircraft from a variety of threats. Developed by L3Harris Technologies, this system is part of a new generation of self-protection systems aimed at enhancing the survivability of military aircraft in contested environments. 

One of the primary capabilities of the Viper Shield is its ability to detect, identify, and counter radar threats. It employs sophisticated electronic countermeasures [ECM] to disrupt or deceive enemy radar systems, making it difficult for adversaries to track or target the protected aircraft. This includes techniques such as jamming, which can overwhelm enemy radar with noise, and deception, which can create false targets or obscure the true location of the aircraft. 

The Viper Shield is also equipped to handle a wide range of electronic threats beyond just radar. It can counter infrared-guided missiles by deploying flares or other countermeasures to confuse the missile’s guidance system. Additionally, the system can protect against radio frequency [RF] threats by detecting and neutralizing hostile communications or data links that could be used to coordinate attacks or gather intelligence. 

'Foreign' F-16s will receive an improved multiple EW package
Photo credit: L3Harris

In terms of specific threats, the Viper Shield is designed to counter both ground-based and airborne radar systems. This includes surface-to-air missile [SAM] systems, anti-aircraft artillery [AAA] radars, and airborne intercept radars. By providing comprehensive situational awareness and automated response capabilities, the Viper Shield enhances the ability of aircraft to operate safely in environments where these threats are present.

Introducing the Viper Shield to modern aircraft marks a major leap in electronic warfare tech. Its modular design means you can easily upgrade and customize it to tackle evolving threats, ensuring your military assets stay protected in the long run. 

The Viper Shield strips down to fewer essential elements than older Electronic Warfare [EW] systems. This makes it more compact, lighter, and less prone to breakdowns, saving costs throughout its operational life. 

F-16's smaller nose cone allows the Su-35 to blind Viper's radar
Photo by Staff Sgt. Sarah M. McClanahan

The system’s modular build allows for quick swaps of Line Replaceable Units [LRUs] right in the field. Looking ahead, there’s room for further expansions and improvements. With its 3U COTS technology and software-driven architecture, future updates are a breeze. This means combat scenarios can benefit from new capabilities without breaking the bank, making obsolescence a thing of the past. 


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