Military and Strategic Journal
Issued by the Directorate of Morale Guidance at the General Command of the Armed Forces
United Arab Emirates
Founded in August 1971

2020-10-01

F-35: Shoot Me If You Can

Military sophistication calls for constant upgradation. For Air Force fighter fleet, the need is more considering the high stakes involved. This is where a timely tryst with technology could do the trick. U.S. and allied fighter fleets face an unpleasant reality. They are getting older. 
 
Since 1990, the U.S. Air Force fighter inventory has been cut in half. The current Air Force fighter aircraft are, on average, more than 25 years old. Numerous militaries around the world also need to replace their ageing fighter fleets with, superior, qualitatively adept aircraft. 
The F-35 has been designed to recapitalise allied fighter fleets and counter emerging threats.
 
Multi-dimensional Capability Holds the Key
The F-35 Lightning II is a 5th Generation fighter, combining advanced stealth capabilities with fighter aircraft speed and agility, greater survivability, situational awareness fully-fused sensor information, network-enabled operations and advanced logistics and sustainment.
 
Three variants of the F-35 will replace the A-10 and F-16 for the U.S. Air Force, the F/A-18 for the U.S. Navy, the F/A-18 and AV-8B Harrier for the U.S. Marine Corps, and a variety of fighters for at least 10 other countries.
 
The Lightning II is a single-seat, single-engine fighter aircraft designed for varied missions with advanced, integrated sensors built into every aircraft. Missions traditionally performed by small numbers of specialised aircraft, such as intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance and electronic attack, can now be executed by a squadron of F-35s.
 
Generation Label
The designation of fighter aircraft by “generations” began with the first subsonic jets towards the end of World War II.  Each new generation reflects a major advance in technology. A 5th Generation fighter has advanced stealth, exceptional agility and manoeuverability, sensor and information fusion, network-enabled operations and advanced sustainment. 
The F-35 and the F-22 are both 5th Generation fighters featuring advanced stealth, integrated avionics, sensor fusion and superior logistics support. 
 
Though F-35 and F-22 are the world’s two premier fighters, there are some differences. The F-35 is a multi-role fighter that can perform air-to-air, air-to-ground and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) missions. While the F-22 is superior to the F-35 in air-to-air missions, the F-35’s air-to-air capability is superior to all other fighters. The F-35 is matchless when it comes to air-to-ground strike missions. 
 
Interestingly, the F-35 is designed with the entire battle space in mind. Reliance on any single capability — electronic attack, stealth, etc. — is insufficient in a rapidly changing scenario. 
 
Startling the Enemy
Stealth is not invisibility. Rather, stealth gives the F-35 the extraordinary ability to elude or complicate an enemy’s capability to find and destroy an aircraft. This is done using a combination of design, tactics, and technology. 
 
True, stealth cannot be retrofitted in an existing aircraft. It has to be built in the design. In general, stealth is the ability to evade detection by radar, infrared sensors, or emission interception. 
 
The F-35’s stealth capabilities are unprecedented in tactical fighter aviation. An integrated airframe design, advanced materials, and other features make the F-35 virtually undetectable to enemy radar. 
 
As F-35 Ret. Marine Maj. Dan Flatley (USMC) explains:  “Adversaries have to build a kill chain. Just because a radar could locate an object — and very high frequency - VHF - radars can spot F-35s — doesn’t mean it can fix, track, target, and consummate that kill chain with a missile hit. We’re not trying to prevent every aspect of that chain, just snap one of those links.”
 
So while an infrared search and tracking system could spot an F-35 and give enemy pilots an idea of where it is, it could not track it or target it with a missile.
In Flatley’s words: “I don’t need to stop everything all the time of the kill chain. I just need to make you unable to finish what you’ve already invested tonnes of time, money and effort in trying to shoot me down.
 
“That’s the thing people don’t understand. They think we’re saying we’re invisible to everyone all the time, at all bandwidths and energy levels. That is not what we are saying.
“The reality is that the F-35 is a huge piece of flying metal and alloy — a radar pointed at the right place at the right time will definitely spot it, but good luck shooting it down.”
 
The amazing fact is that while the enemy systems scour the skies for any trace of the F-35, the aircraft sees all of those radar emissions and can pinpoint the air defences and enemy planes.
Where legacy planes had to choose between lethality and survivability on a mission, the F-35 can do four, 16, or even 32 things at a time, meaning while air and ground threats look for the stealth jet, the F-35 can drop bombs to smash them, according to Flatley.
 
E-Attack Capabilities 
Advanced electronic warfare (EW) capabilities enable F-35 pilots to locate and track enemy forces, jam radars and disrupt attacks with unparalleled effectiveness. Advanced avionics give the pilot real-time access to battle space information with 360-degree coverage and an ability to dominate the tactical environment. 
 
Data collected by sensors on the F-35 will immediately be shared with commanders at sea, in the air or on the ground, providing an instantaneous, high-fidelity view of ongoing operations – making the F-35 a formidable force multiplier while enhancing coalition operations. 
 
Air-to-Surface Attack 
The F-35’s very low-observable (VLO) stealth allows it to safely enter defended airspace without being tracked by radars. The combination of the stealth features, active electronically-scanned array (AESA) radar technology, and the aircraft’s ability to carry its full component of weapons stores and fuel internally allows F-35 pilots to engage ground targets at longer ranges without being detected and tracked, using precision-guided munitions and air-to-air radar-guided  missiles to successfully complete air-to-ground missions.
 
The F-35 can thus enter the air battlespace first, clearing the way with air dominance for follow-on legacy coalition forces to operate with relative impunity. 
 
Air-To-Air Capability 
The F-35’s integrated sensors, information, and weapons systems give pilots an advantage over potential threat front-line fighter aircraft. In aerial combat, legacy aircraft have relatively equal opportunities to detect and engage one another, while a 5th Generation fighter pilot can see enemy aircraft first and take decisive, lethal action from a standoff distance. The ability to see and not be seen is redefining previous generation air-to-air tactics.
 
Electronic Warfare Suite
The AN/ASQ-239 system protects the F-35 with advanced technology for next generation missions to counter threats. Equipped with offensive and defensive electronic warfare options for the pilot and aircraft, the suite provides fully integrated radar warning, targeting support, and self-protection, to detect and defeat surface and airborne threats.
 
The system 8 helps to identify, monitor, analyse, and respond to potential threats. Advanced avionics and sensors offer a real-time, 360-degree view of the battle space, helping to maximise detection ranges and provide the pilot with options to evade, engage, counter or jam threats.
 
Beast Mode
In stealth mode, the F-35 can infiltrate enemy territory that other fighters cannot, carrying 5,700 pounds of internal ordnance. Once air dominance is established, the F-35 converts to beast mode, carrying up to 22,000 pounds of combined internal and external weapons, to return to the battle to finish the fight.
 
Raytheon Technologies is providing precision munitions for firepower, a system that delivers real-time information from six cameras to a pilot’s helmet, and an advanced landing system for the F-35.  
 
The F-35 carries these Raytheon Technologies weapons:
AIM-9X missile: The AIM-9X Sidewinder missile is the first short-range air-to-air missile to be used on the F-35. The F-35 can carry up to two AIM-9X missiles on its wings and four AIM-120 AMRAAM missiles internally.  
 
AMRAAM missile: The AMRAAM missile is operational on all F-35 variants. It’s the only radar-guided air-to-air missile cleared to fly on the F-35.
 
JSM missile: The Joint Strike Missile is the only fifth-generation cruise missile that will be carried by the F-35, and it will also be available for use on other aircraft intended for Offensive Anti-Surface Warfare applications. The missile’s design will allow it to be carried internally on the F-35, which helps increase the aircraft’s stealth capabilities. The JSM missile is suitable for use on the F-35’s A and C variants.
 
JSOW weapon: The JSOW glide weapon is the U.S. Navy’s newest medium-range precision strike standoff system. It is the first air-launched, network-enabled weapon to be used on fourth- and fifth-generation fighter aircraft. The Navy completed operational testing to add JSOW C onto the F-35C aircraft last year.
 
Paveway bomb: Raytheon Technologies’ Enhanced Paveway II bomb, a dual-mode (GPS and laser), precision-guided munition can be used against manoeuvring targets.
StormBreaker smart weapon: 
 
The StormBreaker smart weapon is set for installation on all F-35 variants by 2023. The Joint Strike Fighter can carry eight StormBreaker weapons internally and eight externally, on the wings. Paired with the F-35’s sensors, it will enable the aircraft to hit moving targets even in adverse weather.
 
Core Processor
Much of the F-35’s electronic warfare and ISR capabilities are made possible by a core processor that can perform more than 400 billion operations per second. This core processor collects data from the classified electronic warfare suite, developed by BAE Systems, to identify enemy radar and electronic warfare emissions and provides the pilot 360-degree coverage.
 
Sharing Abilities
The F-35 is designed to share everything it can see with other aircraft and operation centres to expand situational awareness across the entire network of aircraft. 
 
Mission Systems 
“Mission systems” refers to the avionics, integrated electronic sensors, displays and communications systems that collect and share data with the pilot and other friendly aircraft, at sea and on the ground. The F-35 has reportedly the most robust communications suite of any fighter aircraft built, to date. Components include the AESA radar, EOTS targeting system, Distributed Aperture System (DAS), Helmet Mounted Display (HMD), and the Communications, Navigation and Identification (CNI) Avionics. 
 
Electronically Scanned Array
To add to its strength, the F-35 radar system has an active, electronically scanned multi-function array (MFA) and the RF support electronics necessary to support a fully functional radar. It also has integrated radar software modes that are hosted on the integrated core processor.
 
The radar operates through the nose radome, which has a wide bandwidth, enabling high-power transmissions over a large frequency range.
 
 
The F-35 provides its pilot with exceptional situational awareness, positive target identification and precision strike under any weather conditions. Mission systems integration and outstanding over-the-nose visibility features are designed to dramatically enhance pilot performance. 
F-35’s cockpit also features a 20- by 8-inch glass cockpit touchscreen and an Adacel cockpit speech-recognition system, a first for an operational U.S. fixed-wing aircraft. 
 
Distributed Aperture System
The F-35’s Distributed Aperture System (DAS) provides 360 degree, spherical situational awareness. The DAS surrounds the aircraft with a protective sphere of situational awareness. It warns the pilot of incoming aircraft and missile threats as well as providing day/night vision, fire control capability and precision tracking of wingmen/friendly aircraft for increased tactical manoeuvring.
 
The DAS provides missile detection and tracking, launch point detection, situational awareness Infrared Search and Track System (IRST) & cueing, weapons support and day/night navigation. 
 
Weighty Advantage
The F-35’s diverterless inlet lightens the overall weight of the aircraft. Traditional aircraft inlets possessed many moving parts and are much heavier than newer diverterless inlets. The diverterless inlet eliminates all moving parts.
 
When an aircraft is flying, the speed of the air relative to the engine is equal to the plane’s flight speed. However, current turbine engines are unable to handle supersonic airflow. This is because shock waves associated with supersonic speeds can damage or cause dangerous vibrations in turbine blades, resulting in loss of thrust or engine failure.
 
Helmet Display
In lieu of a physical Head-up Display (HUD), the F-35 uses a Helmet-mounted Display (HMD). The technology helps the pilot to look through the aircraft structure. This capability is extremely useful when trying to position the aircraft from a hover over the landing spot.
 
Global Team Effort
The F-35 is developed, produced, and supported by an international team of leading aerospace companies. As the prime contractor, Lockheed Martin continues its 100-year history of aircraft research and design with the Lightning II. Principal partners Northrop Grumman and BAE Systems build the centre and aft fuselages, respectively. 
 
Northrop Grumman brings its expertise in carrier aircraft and low-observable stealth technology to the F-35 programme and supports logistics, sustainment, modelling, simulation, and mission planning. BAE Systems contributes a rich heritage of capabilities, including short take-off and vertical landing experience, advanced lean manufacturing, flight-testing and air systems sustainment. Pratt & Whitney builds the F-35’s F135 propulsion system, one of the world’s most powerful fighter engines. 
 
The Lockheed Martin-led team is developing and producing three variants. The F-35A is the conventional take-off and landing (CTOL) variant, the F-35B is the short take-off-vertical landing (STOVL) variant, and the F-35C is the carrier variant (CV).
Of the original eight partner countries – Australia, Canada, Denmark, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, the United Kingdom, and the United States – six have received their first jets.

There are also six foreign military sale (FMS) customers - Israel, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Belgium, Poland, and Singapore. So far, over 555 aircraft have been delivered. Purchases by the U.S. armed forces and these partner countries combined with foreign military sales are expected to exceed 4,000 total aircraft. 
 
Maintaining air superiority is essential to preserving global security and stability. The advancement of fighter aircraft designs around the world reinforces the importance of the F-35’s superior capabilities and technologies.
 
Reference Text/Photo:
 

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