The F-35 fighter is a technological marvel, but it won’t stay at the cutting edge of capability unless it is periodically improved to keep up with new threats and missions. The Joint Program Office has begun executing the most ambitious round of enhancements to date, called Block 4. The effort involves over 75 significant upgrades, and before those are fully installed the fighter’s core processor and memory unit must be bolstered to support the planned gains in functionality. When all the improvements are in place, the F-35 will be able to host a more diverse array of weapons, and engage targets at greater distances. It will also be more comprehensively networked with the rest of the force to support “kill webs” across multiple warfighting domains. Details about Block 4 are hard to come by because it is mostly classified, but the bottom line is that if the joint force wants to sustain its edge in air power through mid-century, Block 4 must stay on track. I have written a commentary for Forbes here.
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