The fifth generation doesn’t just apply to cellular telephones, as BAE Systems demonstrated with its updates to the AN/ASQ-239 system for the fifth-generation F-35 Lightning II fighter aircraft. The ASQ-239 system provides fully integrated radar warning, targeting support, and self-protection functions as part of its digital electronic-warfare (EW) and electronic-countermeasures (ECM) capabilities. The enhanced version of the system within the aircraft enables it to carry on critical missions in contested airspace while making room for additional hardware on the F-35. Following guidelines for reduced size, weight, and power (SWaP), the new EW system matches the performance of previous EW systems on board the fighter aircraft, with a fraction of the size, weight, and power consumption. This miniaturization of the EW system creates space for other improvements on board the aircraft, including Block IV modernization upgrades.
Major investments by BAE Systems, including a $100 million investment in 80,000 ft.2 of the latest manufacturing space with automated production equipment supported by artificial intelligence (AI) and a boost in the EW workforce by 23%, make the improvements possible with such quick turnaround times: BAE is the first F-35 supplier to insert updated technology into its systems at full production speeds. It delivers 11 systems per month after entering its digital channelized receiver, techniques generation, and advanced tuner technologies into production in 2018.
“We’ve delivered almost 400 EW systems to date, and now we’ve updated the architecture and are manufacturing it at a high rate of production. This technology insertion gives the EW system room to grow and will help the F-35 maintain its dominance of the electromagnetic spectrum,” said Deborah Norton, vice president of F-35 Solutions at BAE Systems. “The successful insertion of DTIP was the result of the outstanding focus, dedication, and teamwork of our engineering and production teams working in close coordination with our customer.”