F-35 Block 4

Cockpit, radar, helmet-mounted display, and other avionics
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bring_it_on

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Unread post01 Jul 2016, 18:16

F-35 JPO eyeing 2018 for Block 4 modernization contract decision

F-35 program officials expect to have a Joint Requirements Oversight Council-approved Block 4 capability development document in hand by late this summer -- a milestone that will solidify follow-on modernization requirements and help set the foundation for the capabilities necessary to operate in the future threat environment.

Diane Wathen, the joint program office's follow-on modernization director, told Inside the Air Force this week the program expects the JROC to approve its CDD in August or September. The document, which was established jointly by all F-35 partners, sets the framework for Block 4, the program's iterative upgrade plan that aims to deliver capabilities in four sub blocks -- 4.1, 4.2, 4.3 and 4.4. The CDD details the capabilities that will be featured in the first two sub blocks, Wathen said, and will be updated as the program approves the content of 4.3 and 4.4, which is still in the very early phases of being defined.

Wathen explained that the follow-on modernization plan is not meant to expand the F-35's reach to new mission areas, but rather to improve performance within existing mission areas. "It's taking the mission areas we're in and expanding the capabilities to keep pace with the threat or bring improvements to the platform," Wathen said.

Capabilities in the 4.1 plan include electronic warfare improvements, cockpit navigation upgrades, a maritime identification capability for the radar and additional weapons integration including the Small Diameter Bomb II and the AIM-9X. 4.1 will also include Norway's JSM missile. The next sub block, 4.2, will bring interopability enhancements, including Link 16, and will begin incorporating an advanced electro-optical targeting system -- a capability that the Air Force has said is a top priority.

Block 4 is not currently being designed as a major defense acquisition program and so does not have the same milestone structure as a traditional acquisition program. However, Wathen stressed that follow-on modernization will be managed under its own contract and many of the performance milestones are similar to what would be required under an MDAP -- they're just tailored specifically for Block 4. Under the current schedule, which Wathen reviewed with ITAF, the program expects to achieve preliminary design review for 4.1 in mid-2018.

A milestone B-like decision point for the entire Block 4 effort is also slated for mid-2018, at which point the program would present an independent cost estimate and the Pentagon's acquisition chief would make a contract decision. Wathen noted that the program used an initial cost estimate to put constraints on the capabilities included in each sub block, but said the estimate will not be finalized for a few years.

"That's a cost estimate prior to us going through any of the systems engineering activity, doing requirements decomposition and getting through a requirements review," she said. "It just helps to bound and prioritize."

The 2018 contract decision will cover the full modernization program, Wathen said, establishing all of the terms and conditions that will apply to each sub block. The scope of each iterative upgrade will be defined separately, with separate RFPs and contract awards.

"It's really a contract within a contract," she said.

The program is working now to develop a Test and Evaluation Master Plan, which will also be completed in mid-2018. Wathen said as the JPO establishes testing processes and requirements, the Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps are conducting independent studies to analyze whether they have the capacity to test the capabilities in each sub block.

"We're looking at both of those things to ensure that we have adequate test capability to support the content that's been laid out," she said. "That will evolve in parallel with us doing the test planning."

Wathen noted that one lesson the program learned from the F-35 system development and demonstration phase was the importance of defining government ownership of the technical baseline as well as the test capability. She noted that those lessons will be prioritized in follow-on development.

Once a contract decision is approved, the program will begin development of 4.1 -- a software-only upgrade expected for delivery in 2020. Future sub-block development will be staggered, with 4.2 starting in 2019, 4.3 in 2021 and 4.4 in 2023.

The schedule also aligns upgrade deliveries with their respective production lots, with 4.1 inserted in lots 13 and 14, 4.2 in lots 15 and 16 and 4.3 in lots 17 and 18.

The JPO began defining the scope of Block 4 several years ago, but in the last two years has narrowed its focus on working with partners to prioritize requirements. The program had expected to have an approved CDD last December, but that was pushed to this summer. Wathen said the extra time allowed officials to make sure the capability was well understood and to generate initial estimates of what those capabilities would cost.

Wathen said because Block 4 requirements are established through the consensus of international and service partners, their priorities are weighted based on their investment, production quantities and some other factors. For common capabilities, partners were in relative agreement about what it would take to operate against future threats. And so setting priorities "was not really problematic," she said.

The real challenge was cost, Whalen said, because as part of the Block 4 prioritization process, partners had to determine what level of investment they could make.

"Part of looking at this was saying, 'What can the enterprise afford from a standpoint of capability content,'" Wathen said. "Budgetary reality is part of the process. It's either how much money do you have or how much are you able to get."

With a contract decision on track for 2018, Wathen said her primary near-term focus is on setting the baseline for 4.1, which she said is the foundation for the rest of Block 4. That foundation is being set through a series of contracts the program awarded in the last year as part of the system requirements review process -- one last June and a second in February.

She said there's another RFP being circulated with Lockheed Martin and other vendors that will carry the program to PDR in 2018.

As it marked up the Defense Department's fiscal year 2017 budget request, Congress has made a few calls for changes to the JPO's management of Block 4. One provision would require Block 4 to be managed as an MDAP -- a proposal the JPO and DOD have said would add unnecessary cost and schedule delays. Another provision, first introduced by the Senate Armed Services Committee, would disestablish the JPO in 2019, at the start of Block 4, and turn over management of the modernization effort to the individual services.

Addressing the second proposal, Wathen said that while it may be possible to disperse the unique capabilities among the services, the program would have to develop a mechanism for managing the common capabilities.

"The unique stuff divides up," she said. "There would have to be an analysis of how you might divide up the common capability. It's not straightforward."
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Unread post01 Jul 2016, 22:21

Maybe McCain loses and the JPO gets to do it's work with less Congressional meddling.
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Unread post01 Jul 2016, 22:52

The way things are headed it may not matter whether McCain wins or looses, he might not be the SASC chairman.
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Unread post02 Jul 2016, 00:27

Appreciate all the quality posts, bring it on. Not just In this thread either 8)
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Unread post02 Jul 2016, 08:29

So what's the deal with Link 16? We know the F-35 can receive it, and I've seen a number of articles / documents stating that it can transmit on it as well; would this be a variation / extension of the Link 16 feature set or something, or will it (until Block 4.2) be like the F-22 with receive only?

Here's one article that suggests that the F-35 can transmit via Link 16, but here's also an interview where a Netherlands pilot states that he can share data to F-16s and KC-10s via Link 16. Perhaps he was speaking hypothetically?
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Unread post02 Jul 2016, 08:51

The Link-16 in the F-35 is Transmit & Receive and always has been.
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Unread post02 Jul 2016, 11:09

SpudmanWP wrote:The Link-16 in the F-35 is Transmit & Receive and always has been.


Yeah, it's the Raptor that is Receive Only IIRC but there are a number of 5th-to-4th alternatives in the offing.
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Unread post02 Jul 2016, 12:16

The current ones apparently focus on Link-16 to IFDL. Not sure if MAPS covers MADL as well to allow F-22 to F-35 communication. They were at one point exploring using the embedded arrays in both the aircraft for communication but don't know if that is still an option.

Dragon029 wrote:So what's the deal with Link 16? We know the F-35 can receive it, and I've seen a number of articles / documents stating that it can transmit on it as well; would this be a variation / extension of the Link 16 feature set or something, or will it (until Block 4.2) be like the F-22 with receive only?

Here's one article that suggests that the F-35 can transmit via Link 16, but here's also an interview where a Netherlands pilot states that he can share data to F-16s and KC-10s via Link 16. Perhaps he was speaking hypothetically?


I think upgrades to the Link-16 capability is probably what they are looking at.
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Unread post02 Jul 2016, 13:12

I recall something about a crypto standard improvement in the coming years for Link-16.
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Unread post14 Jul 2016, 17:25

Marine Corps Aviation Chief Ranks SDB II as F-35 Upgrade Priority
14 Jul 2016 Valerie Insinna

"...For the most part, the services have finalized which capabilities will funnel into the Block 4 modernization program but are deliberating when those upgrades will funnel into production, Davis said.

A capabilities development document is working its way through the Air Force and will go to the Joint Requirements Oversight Council later this summer, said F-35 program executive officer Lt. Gen. Christopher Bogdan.

“We have a pretty good idea of what's going to be in the first few increments of Block 4,” he said in a July 9 interview. “Now we're working on putting together a funding profile to meet that and the acquisition strategy to do that.”

The current plan is to separate the Block 4 upgrades into four increments. Those capabilities will be integrated into the F-35 every two years, starting in 2018 with the first delivery of new capabilities in 2020.

“If a capability is not mature as we develop it, instead of waiting around for it, we'll push it to the next increment,” he said. “So we're trying to work the strategy with industry on how to be that flexible with contracting on the business side.”

The F-35 joint program office (JPO) estimates the upgrades will cost somewhere around $3.8 billion to $4.8 billion to procure and integrate into the aircraft. That doesn’t include unique international requirements such as Norway’s joint strike missile. All weapons, including SDB II, will be fielded within the first two increments, Bogdan said.

Other upgrades will include more modern electronic warfare systems, radar, avionics and interfaces, and changes that improve the aircraft’s reliability, maintainability and ability to deploy. Generally speaking, the JPO will look to current contractors for Block 4 systems, but could compete capabilities if technology has significantly advanced.

“One of the big things to drive cost down in Block 4 is that we will be looking to outside companies who may not have traditionally had equipment on the airplane,” he said. “That’s because in Block 4 we’re getting computers that are open and modular, an open system, so that you can put new sensors and new things on the airplane easier than having to change the whole infrastructure.”

Source: http://www.defensenews.com/story/defens ... /87070442/
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Unread post14 Jul 2016, 17:38

How doo yoo doo - Neva thot I would see a headline like this - my head explodes.... Who'da thunk?!
F-35 Packs a Punch
13 Jul 2016 Chris Pocock

"The F-35 is sleek and stealthy, thanks to internally-carried weapons, but that limits [OOHHH spoiled it - buzzkill] the operational payload and the jet’s air-to-ground capability, correct? To some extent, that is true, but here’s an alternative view. “It’s a bomb truck, capable of carrying 14,000 pounds–that’s 3,000 pounds more than my F-18s,” said Lt. General Jon Davis, head of aviation for the U.S. Marine Corps (USMC).

In fact, the F-35 has seven external weapons stations (see diagram). Their use is not part of the initial operating capability (IOC) for either the USMC F-35Bs or the U.S. Air Force F-35As. But a total of nine weapons are being qualified on the Lightning II as part of the system design and development contract that ends next year. More will likely be integrated in a follow-on contract for Block 4 software and capabilities, which has not yet been fully finalized.

Since Raytheon is the premier provider of weapons for the F-35 Lightning II...

...Not part of Raytheon’s display is the rival short-range air-to-air missile to the AIM-9X. This is the MBDA Asraam, which is going on to the UK’s F-35Bs. The UK is also looking for integration of the MBDA Meteor BVRAAM and the MBDA Spear smart bomb—but not until Block 4."

Source: http://www.ainonline.com/aviation-news/ ... acks-punch
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Unread post20 Aug 2016, 11:16

AviationWeek possibly has an article regarding Block 4 news, but i can't see past the first paragraph. http://aviationweek.com/awindefense/f-3 ... akes-shape
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Unread post30 Nov 2016, 07:05

Here are some clues about BLOCK 4 specifically 4.1 - as for the rest? Who knows... US Congress yabbayabbayabbas & does nothing but punt decisions down the field for continuing resolutions or somesuch & I don't care.

NOTHING about this here - just no extra F-35s or F/A-18s: https://news.usni.org/2016/11/29/compro ... s-aircraft
Congress punts extra F-35s, Super Hornets in defence bill
30 Nov 2016 Leigh Giangreco

"...Committee members also stopped short of mandating a separate programme for F-35 follow-on modernisation, but the bill will require additional reporting on the modernisation to Congress. The major defence acquisition programme designation requires closer inspection from Congress and a selected acquisition report detailing the programme’s cost, schedule and performance.

The bill’s language does not include the need for a selected acquisition report, but the JPO is required to submit information that contains the basic elements of an acquisition programme baseline for block 4 modernisation, senior armed services members told reporters. Block 4 modernisation will deliver 80 new capabilities and 17 weapons. Block 4.1 capabilities will include electronic warfare improvements, cockpit navigation upgrades, AIM-9X Block II and Small Diameter Bomb II integration....

...In April, Senate Armed Services Chairman Senator John McCain ripped into the Joint Programme Offices’ current plan for the F-35, which would keep the modernisation within the programme rather than as a separate line-item in the budget. With Block 4 modernisation set to cost nearly $3 billion over the next six years, the GAO argued the price alone would qualify the programme as a separate major defence acquisition programme....

...Congress also softened its stance on the JPO, which McCain had threatened to scrap. Instead, the conference report directs the Defense Department to return within the next legislative cycle with recommendations on how to drawn down the office. Software and development will likely remain common across platforms, but some elements of the programme could be handed off to the services, staff say.

“That actual disestablishment would not occur in [Fiscal Year 18],” staff say. “That would be a future decision.”"

Source: https://www.flightglobal.com/news/artic ... nc-431929/
RAN FAA A4G Skyhawk 1970s: https://www.faaaa.asn.au/spazsinbad-a4g/ AND https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCwqC_s6gcCVvG7NOge3qfAQ/
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Unread post30 Nov 2016, 12:52

spazsinbad wrote:Here are some clues about BLOCK 4 specifically 4.1 - as for the rest? Who knows... US Congress yabbayabbayabbas & does nothing but punt decisions down the field for continuing resolutions or somesuch & I don't care.

NOTHING about this here - just no extra F-35s or F/A-18s: https://news.usni.org/2016/11/29/compro ... s-aircraft
Congress punts extra F-35s, Super Hornets in defence bill
30 Nov 2016 Leigh Giangreco

"...Committee members also stopped short of mandating a separate programme for F-35 follow-on modernisation, but the bill will require additional reporting on the modernisation to Congress. The major defence acquisition programme designation requires closer inspection from Congress and a selected acquisition report detailing the programme’s cost, schedule and performance.

The bill’s language does not include the need for a selected acquisition report, but the JPO is required to submit information that contains the basic elements of an acquisition programme baseline for block 4 modernisation, senior armed services members told reporters. Block 4 modernisation will deliver 80 new capabilities and 17 weapons. Block 4.1 capabilities will include electronic warfare improvements, cockpit navigation upgrades, AIM-9X Block II and Small Diameter Bomb II integration....

...In April, Senate Armed Services Chairman Senator John McCain ripped into the Joint Programme Offices’ current plan for the F-35, which would keep the modernisation within the programme rather than as a separate line-item in the budget. With Block 4 modernisation set to cost nearly $3 billion over the next six years, the GAO argued the price alone would qualify the programme as a separate major defence acquisition programme....

...Congress also softened its stance on the JPO, which McCain had threatened to scrap. Instead, the conference report directs the Defense Department to return within the next legislative cycle with recommendations on how to drawn down the office. Software and development will likely remain common across platforms, but some elements of the programme could be handed off to the services, staff say.

“That actual disestablishment would not occur in [Fiscal Year 18],” staff say. “That would be a future decision.”"

Source: https://www.flightglobal.com/news/artic ... nc-431929/


Ah McCain, you haven't done it again LOL :mrgreen: . Good thing there are people with a little bit more common sense than McCain in Congress.
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Unread post30 Nov 2016, 14:18

So no death ray for now.
"When a fifth-generation fighter meets a fourth-generation fighter—the [latter] dies,”
CSAF Gen. Mark Welsh
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