F-35 Lightning II Joint Program Office

Aesa Active Electronically Scanned Array

Active Electronically Scanned Array

The F-35 radar system has an active, electronically scanned multi-function array (MFA) and the RF support electronics necessary to support a fully functional radar. It also has integrated radar software modes that are hosted on the integrated core processor.

The radar operates through the nose radome, which has a wide bandwidth, enabling high-power transmissions over a large frequency range.


AESA’s solid-state technology and elimination of mechanical moving parts will enable the radar to far surpass current standards for systems reliability. The radar system also features a “replaceable assemblies” design for faster, easier repairs or upgrades to hardware and software modules. For these reasons, AESA life-cycle costs are expected to be significantly lower than those of mechanically steered arrays (MSA). The active arrays on the F-35 should have almost twice the expected life of the airframe.

AN/APG-81 has 1,676 GaAs T/R modules and likely the most advanced fighter radar ever.