Manned-Unmanned Teaming Eyed For F-35 Block 4

XQ-58 flies in formation with an F-35A and F-22

The first elements of a Manned-Unmanned Teaming capability could be added to the Lockheed Martin F-35 during the ongoing F-35 Block 4 modernization program, a Joint Program Office (JPO) spokeswoman said.

A solicitation released by the JPO on April 4 confirms a study is underway for Manned-Unmanned Teaming during “Capability Increment 4 and beyond.”

The Capability Increment 4 terminology refers to the ongoing, $14 billion Block 4 follow-on modernization program, the JPO spokeswoman said. The eight-year-long Block 4 program is scheduled to wrap up in 2025 with deliveries of Lot 17 aircraft.

“This solicitation is part of an information gathering process. The information received will be analyzed by the F-35 Joint Program Office and may inform any future decisions about the subject program,” the spokeswoman added.

Manned-Unmanned Teaming would give the single-seat F-35 the ability collaborate with or control unmanned aircraft systems during a mission. The capability is considered core to the family of systems envisioned by the Next Generation Air Dominance program, but is also being considered for retrofit on the current fleet of fighters, including the U.S. Air Force’s F-35A and F-15EX.

The solicitation indicates that the Manned-Unmanned Teaming capability for the F-35 could be inserted in Block 4, then upgraded in follow-on capability increments.

Steve Trimble

Steve covers military aviation, missiles and space for the Aviation Week Network, based in Washington DC.


I can't see how this is a good fit for a single-seater...
Where are they going to find room to fit this? Also the power and heat dissipation capabilities are already close to their limits.