The Joint Strike Fighter could be upgraded to carry up to six internal AIM-120 AMRAAM Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missiles, according to a Lockheed Martin executive. "Our spiral development program includes the ability to carry up to six internal AMRAAMs", G. Richard Cathers, senior manager of Lockheed Martin's strategic studies group, told the IQPC Fighter Conference in London on Wednesday. "It's a capability second only to the F-22."
Cathers added that the JSF's air-combat capability "has not been advertised as it could or should have been", partly because "at the same time as we are developing the F-35, we and the USAF have wanted to expand the F-22 program." Apparently, the USAF has not wanted to advertise the JSF's air-to-air capability, concerned that it would weaken the case for acquiring more than the 183 F-22s authorized today.
The four added internal AMRAAMs would be carried in place of internal bombs. It's not clear, however, whether the short-take-off, vertical landing F-35B variant, which has smaller weapon bays, would be able to carry the added weapons.
An executive for a competing fighter program, speaking at the conference, said that the six-missile capability would be a major improvement for the JSF. Until now, competitors have criticised the JSF because it carries only two AAMs - supporting only a single engagement - in stealth mode.