Testing will commence soon on the next-generation Block 4 software, expected to enhance capability of the Lockheed Martin-developed F-35 Lightning II joint strike fighter (JSF).
Flightglobal cites the US Navy as posting on the federal government's procurement website, that the F-35's joint programme office is planning to award multiple contracts to Lockheed Martin for the development of Block 4 software, while the first contract is likely to be placed in October 2014.
Under the contract, the company will provide assessments and evaluations aimed to ensure Block 4-equipped aircraft meet future operational requirements.
The Block 4 software will provide improved radar and electronic warfare systems while enabling the F-35 aircraft to carry additional weapons used by both the US military and other F-35 customers.
The Block 4 software-equipped JSF aircraft can accommodate joint stand-off cruise missiles such as Kongsberg's joint strike missile and Raytheon AIM-9X Sidewinder Block II air-to-air missiles, according to a document posted on the US Embassy website in Norway.
In addition to providing streaming video from its electro-optical targeting system and an improved ability to identify targets, the software offers aircraft the ability to land even on icy runways.
The contracts are expected to include development of a prototype to test systems, upgrades to hardware, engineering and design work and for the acquisition of technical, administrative and financial data, the navy's notice said.
Prototypes of subsystems and components will be developed by Lockheed rather than a dedicated Block 4 test aircraft, the F-35 programme office said.
The US Department of Defense (DoD) will invest $6m including $1.5m from the US Navy, $3m from the US Air Force and $1.5m from the US Marine Corps, on the project during this fiscal period, the programme office further said.