Brightening with Lightening

The United Arab Emirates Air Force (UAEAF) will get 150 Northrop Grumman AGM-88E Advanced Anti-Radiation Guided Missiles (AARGMs) via the country’s proposed arms deal with the United States.

Announced on 10th November, these missiles will adorn the 50 Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning-II combat aircraft the UAEAF is seeking as part of the deal. The F-35A is to receive software and hardware updates optimising the jet to support the Suppression of Enemy Air Defence (SEAD) mission following a contract awarded by the US Air Force to Lockheed Martin this June.

Back in late September it was reported that the UAEAF has shown interest in acquiring the Boeing EA-18G Growler electronic warfare and SEAD aircraft. However, some members of the Israeli airpower community had been unhappy about the UAE receiving the aircraft. The EA-18G is thus conspicuous by its absence in the proposed purchase inventory.

The UAE has requested 50 F-35A jets from the United States. These aircraft are expected to be configured to perform SEAD. (USAF)

SEAD Upgrade

The F-35 SEAD upgrade could confer improvements to the jet’s BAE Systems’ AN/ASQ-239 electronic warfare system. This is thought to cover wavebands of 500 megahertz/MHz to 40 gigahertz/GHz. Software improvements to the AN/ASQ-239 could provide necessary precision to target hostile radars with the AGM-88E.

AGM-88E

The AGM-88E is the latest version of the venerable Texas Instruments AGM-88 HARM (High Speed Anti-Radiation Missile) series. The AGM-88E design adds a GNSS (Global Navigation Satellite System) receiver and a Millimetric Wave (MMW) radar.

The AGM-88E is a step change for the capabilities of the legacy AGM-88 series of anti-radiation missile. (Northrop Grumman)

The former lets the missile be loaded with an emitter’s GNSS coordinates meaning can still be targeted even if the radar transmission is switched off in an attempt to break the missile’s lock. It also allows the missile to be programmed with geographical zones outside of which it cannot fly. The MMW radar improves battle damage assessment as the short wavelengths accompanying frequencies of 30GHz and above depict targets in striking detail. This aids post mission analysis as the radar imagery can be viewed to ensure that the missile struck its intended target.

Between 2006 and 2007 the UAEAF acquired 159 legacy AGM-88B/C rounds. It is most likely these missiles which will be remanufactured as the AGM-88E.

The UAEAF may have failed to secure the EA-18G for now but, pending authorisation by the US Congress, the force should still receive a potent SEAD capability via the F-35A and AGM-88E.

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