An F35 Lightning fighter aircraft outside the Northrop Grumman hangar.
Photo Credit: Northrop Grumman

Northrop Grumman to develop Next Generation Radar for F-35 Lightning

LONDON – Northrop Grumman Corporation is developing the AN/APG-85, an advanced Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar for the F-35 Lightning II.

Northrop Grumman currently manufactures the AN/APG-81 active electronically scanned array (AESA) fire control radar, the cornerstone to the F-35 Lightning II’s 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 adversarial air and surface threats.

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.

Northrop Grumman involvement in F-35


As well as producing the AN/APG-85 and AN/APG-81 radars, the company manufactures the center fuselage and wing skins for the aircraft.

In addition to the airframe components, it 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.

Overall, Northrop Grumman plays a key role in the development, modernization, sustainment and production of the F-35.

In January 2020, Northrop Grumman originally received the contract award from Lockheed Martin Corporation to enable new functionality to protect the 5th Generation F-35 Lightning II multi-role fighter.

As part of a collaborative arrangement between Northrop Grumman, BAE Systems and Lockheed Martin, the three companies integrated Northrop Grumman’s AN/ASQ-242 Integrated Communications, Navigation and Identification (ICNI) for optimal operational utility.

The system provides F-35 pilots with more than 27 fully-integrated operational functions. Northrop Grumman’s design allows the simultaneous operation of multiple critical functions while greatly reducing size, weight and power demands on the advanced F-35 fighter.

These functions include Identification Friend or Foe (IFF), automatic acquisition of fly-to points, and various voice and data communications such as the Multifunction Advanced Data Link (MADL).

The F-35 program


The Lockheed Martin F35 Lightning program received a further boost at the beginning of January 2023, The Government of Canada announced its intention to procure Lockheed Martin’s 5th Generation F-35 Lightning II aircraft as a result of the Future Fighter Capability Project competition.

The Royal Canadian Air Force will receive a total of 88 F-35A multirole stealth fighters, a sustainment solution tailored to Canada’s sovereign requirements and a comprehensive training program.

To date, the F-35 operates from 27 bases worldwide, with nine nations operating F-35s on their home soil.

There are more than 890 F-35s in service today, with more than 1,870 pilots and 13,500 maintainers trained on the aircraft. 

About Northrop Grumman

Northrop Grumman is a global aerospace, defense and security company. The majority of business is carried out with the U.S. government, principally the Department of Defense and intelligence community. In addition, the company delivers solutions to global and commercial customers.

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