FORT WORTH, Texas–The Lockheed Martin [LMT] F-35 fighter is soon to have a company-designed weapons rack–“Sidekick”–that will allow the internal carriage of six

Raytheon Technologies‘ [RTX] AIM-120 advanced medium range air-to-air missiles (AMRAAM)–three in each weapons bay, as opposed to the previoous maximum of four internal AMRAAMS.

The “Sidekick” adapter is to field in Lot 15 F-35s, which are to start delivery to the U.S. military services this year.

“All Lot 15s will have the bulkhead mod that will allow for it [‘Sidekick’],” said Edward “Stevie” Smith, the director of F-35 domestic business development and a retired Navy F/A-18 pilot.

On Dec. 30 last year, Lockheed Martin said that the F-35 Joint Program Office and the company had finalized a Lot 15-16 contract that may be worth $30 billion to build and deliver up to 398 F-35s domestically and internationally–145 aircraft for Lot 15, 127 for Lot 16, and up to 126 for the Lot 17 contract option, including the first F-35 aircraft for Belgium, Finland and Poland (Defense Daily, Jan. 10). Those lots are to include Technology Refresh 3 (TR-3), powered by the L3Harris [LHX] integrated core processor.

F-35 program officials have described TR-3 as  the computer “backbone” for Block 4, which is to have 88 unique features and integrate 16 new weapons on the F-35, which became operational in July 2015.

Lot 15 marks the start of an effort to field F-35s able to carry a higher number of advanced, longer-range weapons cued by fused sensors across F-35s and other platforms.

Nearly four years ago, Lockheed Martin announced that it had developed “Sidekick” (Defense Daily, May 1, 2019).

Because of its stealth and advanced sensors, the F-35 “is much more lethal with an AIM-120 than fourth generation fighters because I don’t have to take half court shots,” Smith said. “I can take layups.”

“We’re also looking for 5th generation weapons that we can carry externally,” he said. “The LRASM/JASSM family is a great one. The [F-35] A and C variants are cleared for 5,000 pounds per pylon, [and] structurally, can take it up to 7,500 pounds. When you look at some of the heavier, hypersonic, long-range weapons, those are definitely weapons we wanna be able to take into the fight because anytime we can shorten that kill chain before things can move, we can provide a more lethal effect.”

Lockheed Martin builds the AGM-158 series, including the AGM-158B Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile-Extended Range (JASSM-ER) and the AGM-158C Long Range Anti-Ship Missile (LRASM).