Italian F-35 fighters train in Suppression/Destruction of Enemy Air Defenses

F35 electronic warfare ECR SEAD
Italian F-35 fighters train in Suppression/Destruction of Enemy Air Defenses (SEAD/DEAD).

On 19 October 2020, the Italian Air Force deployed four F-35A strike fighters at Rivolto air base, northern Italy, home of the 2nd Wing, as part of the "Lightning 2020" exercise.

For two weeks, the Lightining IIs assigned to the XIII Group/32nd Wing operated from Rivolto and conducted several daily sorties to reach the “Polygone” electronic shooting range in Germany and to operate with the air defense systems of the 2nd Wing.

During the entire training campaign, the Missile Group of the 2nd Wing was engaged in conducting SBAD (Surface Based Air Defense) operations, simulating a realistic electronic warfare scenario. The activities involved the use of the new SIRIUS missile system, recently assigned to the Italian Air Force, against the F-35s engaged in SEAD (Suppression Enemy Air Defenses) and DEAD (Destruction Enemy Air Defenses) missions.

These exercises allow the Italian Air Force to train in the use of the F-35 in electronic warfare in order to maintain this ability even after the imminent withdrawal of the Tornado ECR (Electronic Combat Reconnaissance).

In the future, the F-35 is expected to receive updates to enhance its SEAD/DEAD capability. In June 2020, the Pentagon awarded Lockheed Martin a $ 26.7 million contract to improve the F-35's ability in the Suppression/Destruction of Enemy Air Defenses (SEAD/DEAD). The retrofit design will be applied to both U.S. and foreign F-35s in Lots 14 and 15, and will be completed by August 2022.

The current 3F version allows the F-35 to use the small-diameter GBU-39 bomb and AGM-154 stand-off weapon, both adopted for SEAD/DEAD. With the upcoming update to block 4, it will also be able to carry additional weapons, including the in-development Stand-In Attack Weapon (SiAW).

Written by Matteo Sanzani
Source, Image: Italian Air Force

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