The iconic F-16 fighters will get an advanced electronic warfare system (EWS) called ‘Viper Shield’. US aerospace giant Lockheed Martin has awarded a contract to a Florida-based technology company for the development of the new EW suite.
The system will provide “a virtual electronic shield around the aircraft”, said Ted Damaskinos, vice-president and general manager of the Florida-based L3Harris Technologies.
Under the contract, the tech company will install the system on the F-16 multi-role fighters to protect them from emerging radar and electronic threats.
As many as 25 countries use the US-made F-16 fighter jets, which were originally developed by General Dynamics and are now produced by Lockheed Martin.
“The L3Harris Viper Shield EW system enables the F-16 to continue to be one of the most effective combat aircraft in the world,
“Our 30-year legacy on the F-16, coupled with the advanced technologies being developed for Viper Shield, provide our warfighters and international partners with unprecedented self-protection that helps to ensure mission success,” said Ed Zoiss, president, Space and Airborne Systems, L3Harris.
The baseline version of the Viper Shield has been integrated into the fuselage of the fighter jet. This was done to save space for additional capability such as a fuel pod that could be attached externally to increase the range of missions.
The integration of the Viper Shield with the weapons systems, including the radar, of the F-16 fighter allows the EW suite to have a broad application to the F-16 Block 70/72 fighter jet configurations.
So far, over a dozen nations in Europe, Asia, and the Middle East are planning to fly the Block 70/72 variant of the F-16 fighter jet.
Electronic Warfare (EW) represents the ability to make use of the electromagnetic spectrum — signals such as radio, infrared, or radar — in order to sense, protect, and communicate.
In the current scenario, fighters or other aircraft have to navigate through complicated environments involving radars and air defense missiles.
With the help of the Viper Shield EW suite, there is a greater level of situational awareness and the fighters can detect threats, parse through all the electromagnetic noise and even carry out active countermeasures against those threats, according to Damaskinos.