Maritime Strike Capability
Vice Adm. Mat Winter head of the F-35 Joint Project Office , JPO, talking to US airforcemag in December stated that Block 4 will add a fifth “mission thread” to the four missions it already performs—that of “expanded surface warfare”. The four core missions in the F-35 baseline version are: air superiority, suppression and destruction of enemy air defenses, close air support, and strategic attack of key targets.
"The Block 3F version can do limited strikes against ships, but Winter explained the radar and other sensor functions needed to attack land targets are different for attack of sea targets. The update in Block IV will allow the F-35 to be effective in the sea strike role as well, he said."
"The Navy/Air Force Long-Range Anti-Ship Missile (LRASM), a variant of the AGM-158 JASSM-ER, is not a fundamental element of the new mission capability, Winter said. Although the F-35 has had fit checks of LRASM externally and can probably carry the weapon internally, the Navy’s threshold munition for the mission is the AGM-154 Joint Stand-Off Weapon, or JSOW, he said, noting that LRASM may be added later."
My first thoughts
Until Block 4 aircraft in service the Mach 1.6 F-35B will have limited mission capabilities, especially in the maritime strike role. Block 4 will bring 53 additional capabilities, JPO previously said about 22 of the capabilities, not revealed, will require the F-35 to include the Technology Refresh 3, TR3 upgrade, planned for Lot 15 a/c due for delivery 2023. (TR3 new computer with 25x power, panoramic cockpit display electronic unit, aircraft memory system and new DAS (as yet no mention if the new generation silicon tech IR in an Advanced EOTS to be included, the new tech in current upgrades to the F-15 & F-18 and the new Litening, Sniper and Talios pods, "the radar and other sensor functions needed to attack land targets are different for attack of sea targets" presumably the inclusion of SAR capability in the radar slipped from Block 3.6F).
If the RN want to equip the F-35B with an AShM with powerful warhead for the Maritime Strike role the 1,100kg/450kg warhead LM Long-Range Anti-Ship Missile looks a long time off (USN will be using F-18 with LRSAM IOC end of 2019), another option maybe the Norwegian 400kg/125kg warhead Joint Strike Missile, JSM, Norway made it a condition of their F-35A buy that JSM capability included in Block 4, expected in service 2022-4, Australia also procuring the JSM for its F-35As. The drawback of the JSM for the F-35B is that it will have to be carried externally degrading the stealth capabilities, the F-35B weapons bay is shorter than that of the F-35A due to lift fan. The fall back is the 100kg SPEAR 3 with a 20kg? warhead.