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F-35 radar makes showing at electronic attack exercise

July 3, 2009 (by Eric L. Palmer) - Northrop Grumman Corporation has announced that it successfully demonstrated key electronic protection capabilities of the F-35 Lightning II's AN/APG-81 radar during the recent Northern Edge 2009 (NE09) joint military exercise.
The Northrop Grumman AN/APG-81 active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar was flown on board the company's BAC 1-11 test aircraft and was integrated into what is considered the United States' largest and most complex airborne electronic warfare (EW) exercise to date. Northrop Grumman demonstrated the electronic protection (EP) capabilities of the AN/APG-81, by successfully countering advanced electronic attacks (EA), which are intended to degrade, neutralize, or destroy friendly combat capability.

"This event represents a major milestone in electronic protection testing for the AN/APG-81 in an operationally representative environment. We have been able to prove a number of EP capabilities years ahead of normal development timelines," said Teri Marconi, vice president of Combat Avionics for Northrop Grumman Electronic Systems sector. "The AN/APG-81 is the world's most advanced fighter fire control radar. It has extremely robust electronic warfare capabilities, and these tests validate years of laboratory testing versus a wide array of threat systems."

"The radar was subjected to a scale of scenarios that far exceeded typical developmental or operational test program requirements," said Pete Bartos, a former U.S. Navy F/A-18 operational test director and currently Northrop Grumman program manager for fifth-generation fighter requirements, improvements and derivatives. "In the past, typical EP testing consisted of a few sorties versus a single or maybe two jammers at once. This test was unique in that it included flights versus multiple types of advanced jammers on several aircraft formations at once."

The AN/APG-81 radar is currently undergoing integrated avionics flight testing aboard the Lockheed Martin Cooperative Avionics Test Bed (CATBird) aircraft, and is being installed in production F-35s on the aircraft assembly line in Fort Worth, Texas. The AN/APG-81 is designed and produced by Northrop Grumman's Electronic Systems sector.

Northern Edge 2009 is a joint field training exercise incorporating over 9,000 warfighters supervised by the Joint Electronic Protection for Air Combat (JEPAC). NE09 provided an operationally representative training environment that integrated over a dozen types of U.S. fighter and bomber aircraft as well as an entire U.S. Navy carrier strike group. Large force air, land, and sea combat scenarios along with airborne interdiction of maritime target scenarios provided unparalleled opportunities for warfighters to 'train-as-they-fight' in a complex radio frequency environment.

Team members from JEPAC collaborated with the U.S. Air Force and Naval Warfare Centers as well as the military service research laboratories to present and integrate a realistic twenty-first century threat capabilities in NE09, effectively exposing over 700 aircrew service members to an unprecedented level of advanced electronic attack scenarios. This environment presented a rare and valuable opportunity to observe the performance of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter's APG-81 radar.

The JEPAC is one of ten test projects under the Office of the Secretary of Defense-sponsored Joint Test and Evaluation (JT&E) Program that develops joint tactics techniques and procedures to improve combat effectiveness through the use of electronic protection via timely integration of specific target track generating capabilities with tactical shooters during combat employment through the use of enhanced testing methodologies such as Northern Edge. The NE09 exercise is approved by the Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff (CJCS); scheduled by the Commander, United States Pacific Command (USPACOM); and sponsored by the Alaskan Command (ALCOM).

Courtesy-Northrop Grumman