AN/APG-85, the new generation radar developed for the F-35

Gastón Dubois

AN/APG-85 Northrop Grumman F-35

Northrop Grumman Corporation is developing the AN/APG-85, an advanced active electronically scanning radar (AESA) for the F-35 Lightning II, which will replace the current AN/APG-81.

Northrop Grumman currently manufactures the AN/APG-81 fire control radar, the cornerstone of the F-35 Lightning II sensor suite.

The AN/APG-85 is an advanced multifunction sensor that will be compatible with all variants of the F-35 aircraft and will be capable of defeating current and projected adversary air and surface threats.

The new radar would be available for future F-35s from production lots 17 onward, both Air Force models and Bravo and Charly endorsements.

The development and integration of APG-85 will incorporate some of the latest technologies available and help ensure air superiority. This advanced sensor will provide unparalleled battlespace situational awareness that translates into platform lethality, effectiveness and survivability.

The AN/APG-85 will be a core piece of equipment on future F-35 Block 4s, which will integrate a wide range of advanced capabilities, such as new weaponry, new sensors, enhanced electronic warfare capabilities, etc.

Following the latest trends in radar technology, the AN/APG-85 will most likely use TRMs (Transmit/Receive Modules) based on GaN (Gallium Nitride) materials. The advantage of radars made with GaN TRMs is that they have better performance, especially in terms of electronic counter counter-countermeasures (ECCM), small target detection and higher bandwidth, than most current AESA sensors employing gallium arsenide (GaAs) TRMs, such as the AN/APG-81. Another key advantage is that they have better thermal efficiency, so they can operate at much higher power, allowing the radar to function as a powerful offensive electronic warfare device.

Northrop Grumman plays a key role in the development, modernization, sustainment and production of the F-35. In addition to producing the AN/APG-85 and AN/APG-81 radars, the company manufactures the center fuselage and wing skins for the aircraft, produces and maintains several sensor systems, avionics, mission systems and mission-planning software, pilot and maintainer training systems courseware, electronic warfare simulation test capability, and low-observable technologies.

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