The baseline F-35 strike fighter doesn’t have a directed infrared countermeasures system to protect it against heat-seeking missiles, but Northrop Grumman announced last month it is readying a system called “Threat Nullification Defensive Resource,” or ThNDR, in anticipation that a requirement for a countermeasure system will emerge. “The timing is in question” as to when the services will seek such a system, said Jeffrey Palombo, who oversees the company’s self-protection systems, at a press briefing in mid-September in Washington, D.C. Given the “timeline for designing, verifying these systems, you’ve got to get a head start,” and Northrop Grumman is investing its own money to develop it, he said. Palombo speculated that a DIRCM wasn’t part of the baseline F-35 requirements because typically in such programs “there’s a ‘want’ list . . . a ‘must-have’ list, and a ‘waiting priority’ list,” and program officials assessed that DIRCM wasn’t needed against the threats that initial F-35s would face. But it “absolutely” will be, he said at the Sept. 12 event, adding that ThNDR could be installed on the production line or retrofitted on early production F-35s. He also sees a market to equip F-15s, F-16s, and other fighters with it.
While some of the Air Force's newly announced changes will happen quickly, it may take most of Chief of Staff Gen. David W. Allvin's tenure in the job to accomplish the rest, he said in a Brookings Institution event Feb. 28.