Lockheed Martin will modify the F-35 weapons bay to accommodate a very long-range, anti-radiation missile and support a potential future upgrade to carry up to six air-to-air missiles internally, a source close to the program says.
The U.S. Defense Department awarded Lockheed Martin a $34.7 million contract on July 18 to complete the weapons bay modifications by July 2022.
The contract announcement released by the Pentagon specifically calls for altering the portion of the Station 425 bulkhead inside the weapons to carry “aft heavy weaponry.”
A source close to the program says the weapon involved in the modification program is the Navy's Advanced Anti-Radiation Guided Missile-Extended Range (AARGM-ER).
Although the baseline AARGM bears a close resemblance to the AGM-88 High-speed Anti-Radiation Missile, the AARGM-ER removes the mid-body wings and increases the diameter of the missile body. The maximum range of the AARGM-ER is classified.
The Air Force is developing a new version of the AARGM-ER, which is called the Stand-in Attack Weapon.
The modification to Station 425 also will allow the F-35 to carry six AIM-120 missiles internally, the source says.
Lockheed has proposed the so-called “Sidekick” modification to increase the F-35's internal load-out from four to six air-to-air missiles.
The Station 425 modification is funded by all three U.S. service branches acquiring the F-35. Although the AARGM-ER is not yet cleared for export, foreign customers also are contributing, supplying about $7 million of funding for the modification program.