The F-35 Joint Program Office (JPO) and companies, including F-35 prime contractor Lockheed Martin [LMT], are addressing a parts shortage for the Northrop Grumman [NOC] AN/AAQ-37 Distributed Aperture System (DAS).

“AN/AAQ-37 Distributed Aperture System (DAS) is a known part shortage and is being aggressively addressed by industry and government,” Lockheed Martin said on Nov. 8. “We are committed to providing a resolution that ensures this 5th Gen capability is delivered to the warfighter while maintaining program affordability.”

The F-35 JPO had referred questions on the AN/AAQ-37 to Lockheed Martin.

In an email on Oct. 6, Northrop Grumman did not mention the parts shortage but said that the company “is on contract to deliver [AN/AAQ-37] production units into 2023, and to support the system through sustainment contracts beyond that timeframe.”

“We are performing and plan to fulfill our obligation to the customer per our contract agreement,” the company said.

The AN/AAQ-37 has six electro-optical (EO) sensors to give the pilot 360-degree situational awareness for missile and aircraft threat warnings, launch point detection, targeting, and day/night navigation.

The DAS sensor sends high-resolution real-time images to the pilot’s helmet, thus allowing the pilot to see through the bottom of the aircraft to the ground below.

Plans have called for the integration of the Raytheon [RTN] Next-Generation EO DAS into all F-35 variants by 2022 under a nearly $99 million contract announced by the Pentagon on Dec. 30, 2019 (Defense Daily, Jan. 14, 2020).

Northrop Grumman bowed out of a bid for the AN/AAQ-37 follow-on program in 2018, as company executives said that the pay-off would be higher for other business opportunities. Lockheed Martin chose Raytheon as the new DAS supplier in June 2018. Plans have called for Lockheed Martin to deliver the Next-Generation EO DAS to the F-35 fleet beginning in 2023 with production Lot 15 aircraft.

Lockheed Martin has said that the Raytheon DAS will lead to more than $3 billion in life cycle cost savings, a 45 percent reduction in unit recurring costs, a more than 50 percent reduction in operations and sustainment costs, five times more reliability, and twice the performance capability.

The F-35 program has been gearing up for first flights of an F-35 equipped with Technology Refresh 3 (TR3) and the Raytheon Next Generation EO DAS (Defense Daily, Sept. 20).

Powered by the L3Harris [LHX] integrated core processor, TR3 is the computer backbone for Block 4, which is to have 88 unique features and to integrate 16 new weapons on the F-35.