There will now be six air-to-air missiles in the F-35 ‘belly’

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WASHINGTON, US — More weight, but the same resistance. These will be the new F-35A and F-35C and first be delivered in the second half of this year. The reason – these two fighters will carry two more missiles. Thus, from four AIM-120 AMRAAMs, the A and C series will carry two more missiles in their belly.

Photo by Bartek Bera

The device is called Sidekick and is Lockheed Martin’s own development. It is not the first time that this type of adapter has been talked about, which will allow the F-35A and F-35C to take off on missions with six AMRAAM missiles. It was originally assumed that the Sidekick would be incorporated into the F-35 Block 4 design. However, The War Zone confirms that work on the adapter has progressed. This information the journalists took directly as an answer to their question from Lockheed Martin.

However, the Sidekick will not be able to be integrated into another modification of the stealth fighter – the F-35B. These are military fighters taking off from aircraft carriers. I.e. the short takeoff and landing change some of the basic characteristics of the base F-35. The lifting fan, which is used precisely for short take-off and landing, takes away from the volume of the weapons compartment. In this way, the Sidekick is dropped as a modification option for the F-35B.

In reality, interest in the Sidekick had cooled in fiscal 2021. But now, Lot 15, which will begin to be implemented and delivered in the second half of this year, confirms that the aircraft will receive this integration. Moreover, signals of impending integration came from Canada. In January, they announced their intention to purchase 88 units of the F-35. When they did, they announced the possibility of Canadian fighters carrying six AMRAAM missiles.

Will bulkheads and weapon bays be modified in this regard? Most likely yes, as some reports in recent years suggest. Although Lockheed Martin does not give a definitive answer to this question or refuses to give it, other sources claim exactly that.

Photo credit: Aviation Week

For example, if we go back a little, in the year 2019, and look at a contract between the US government and Lockheed Martin, we will notice that the American company foresees a structural modification of the bulkhead of station 425 of the plane. This activity is estimated to cost nearly $35 million. However, it is not clear whether Sidekick is the cause of such a structural change.

Tony “Brick” Wilson, who is a test pilot at Lockheed Martin, said the new adapter and the new two missiles will certainly increase the weight of the entire F-35A and F-35C configuration, but will not change the drag. He said these words nearly three years ago during a press briefing organized by Lockheed Martin.

Of course, the F-35 can carry more missiles if it uses the external pods under each of the two wings. However, it is clear that if this happens, the stealth functionality of the F-35 will be disrupted and will “light up” on enemy radars. So the six missiles needed to fit inside the plane, not outside. In this way, American experts say, combat capability not only increases but also reaches a lethality comparable to that of another American flagship – the F-22 Raptor.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

It is not yet officially known when the Sidekick will be presented “on the red carpet” and illuminated by the spotlights. Lockheed Martin did not provide an exact time frame for this. However, it is still expected that, even if it is not this year, in 2029, Block 4 will have to have this kind of integration.


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