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Detect and Protect: L3Harris Viper Shield™ and AESA Radar System Connect for Next-Generation F-16

L3Harris Stuart Altman

L3Harris’ advanced Viper Shield EW system just passed an important milestone successfully demonstrating that it will be fully interoperable with the Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar installed on Lockheed Martin’s new F-16 Block 70/72 aircraft. The integration marks a vital step toward offering maximum protection to the F-16 warfighters of tomorrow. 

L3Harris’ Stuart Altman discusses the significance of this successful integration and how the Viper Shield’s innovative technology joins L3Harris’ mission of delivering the F-16 EW system of choice to our international partners.

Stuart Altman, L3Harris Electronic Defense Systems Program Management Director

Next-generation Electronic Warfare for Tomorrow’s Threats

Q: Every warfighter relies upon protection from current and future threats, some of which might be unimagined. How does Viper Shield meet this challenge and increase mission success for the F-16 warfighter?

A: When it comes to combating the challenge that the F-16 warfighter faces in today’s complex, ever-changing battlespace, it’s important to not only meet the challenge of dynamic threats, but also to get ahead with cutting-edge countermeasures.

Building upon the success of L3Harris’ existing EW systems and with emerging and future threats in mind, we developed the Viper Shield EW system. Serving as virtual electronic armor, Viper Shield provides the F-16 warfighter with greater situational awareness, maximizing survivability and mission success. Viper Shield was designed specifically to maximize the integration and performance of the new, advanced, sensor suite of the next-generation Lockheed Martin F-16 Block 70/72.

Viper Shield upgrades F-16 EW in some fundamental ways. Its new pilot and vehicle interface provides the pilot with improved situational awareness and easier interaction. It is driven by advanced digital radar warning technology that alerts the pilot to threats earlier. A new jamming system makes it able to quickly avoid electromagnetic threats.

With this advanced technology, the warfighter is even better protected and prepared to complete its mission.

Sophisticated and Integrated

Q: What does the successful integration reveal about Viper Shield’s advanced protection capabilities?

A: Simply put, successful electronic protection of any aircraft depends upon situational awareness. It’s like a boxer who catches a right hook coming at him out of the corner of his eye in time to get his glove up to block it. You’ve got to know it’s coming in order to eliminate the threat.

The test confirmed that Viper Shield’s advanced defensive and offensive technology will work seamlessly with the aircraft’s new APG-83 AESA radar system. This means that both systems can operate concurrently without disrupting and degrading the other. In addition, the Viper Shield interface with the F-16 Block 70/72 Mission Computer was successfully tested and validated.

The complex agile waveforms used by the APG-83 AESA radar create a challenge to the harmonious operation of both systems. The Viper Shield system has implemented a sophisticated Radio Frequency Compatibility scheme to seamlessly integrate with the APG-83.

Situational awareness is a critical component in a complex battlespace and the successful integration of the APG-83 AESA radar with the Viper Shield proves that the two systems can work together to detect threats and effectively protect against them like never before.

Q: How does Viper Shield differ from previous generation EW systems?

A: As I previously mentioned, Viper Shield’s cutting-edge technology was built from the success of existing L3Harris EW systems, but it has fewer critical components and uses commercial-off-the-shelf technology. What this means is that Viper Shield has a smaller form factor and reduced weight, but is also more reliable. All of this results in lower lifecycle costs that enable the warfighter the ability for modernization while minimizing obsolescence.

Q: How is Viper Shield’s sophisticated, all-digital design forward-looking to protect the warfighter from the threats of a dynamic, ever-changing environment?

A: Providing the warfighter with forward-looking capabilities is at the core of our mission here at L3Harris. Now, with the current complexity that the F-16 warfighter faces, and will inevitably face in the future, the need to anticipate what will be needed in the future has never been more important.

Viper Shield’s open-system design allows new EW capabilities to be added easily, addressing emerging and future threats. Software-defined components allow easy upgrades without new hardware, and the system is designed to interact with wingmen – manned or unmanned – without any EW interferance.

All this is to say Viper Shield is designed with the future in mind.

A Legacy Continued

Q: What led to Viper Shield’s development and how will it continue to break next-generation EW barriers for decades to come?

A: L3harris has more than six decades of EW leadership and has provided EW systems on F-16s for more than 30 years, resulting in the successful protection of the fleets of nations around the world. With that being said, our legacy doesn’t stop there. It’s our mission at L3Harris to move forward, faster. With this mission and the warfighter in mind, the cutting-edge Viper Shield was strategically developed. An ever-changing battlespace presents the need for modernizing warfighting capabilities and that is exactly what Viper Shield does and will enable for decades to come.

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