December 8, 2017

DIGGING DEEPER: Newly Revealed Experiment Shows How F-35 Could Help Intercept ICBMs.

I covered this one earlier in the week, but the only article I could find was locked tight behind a paywall. This one is free:

The F-35 is studded with sensors like no other aircraft, including the Distributed Aperture System, or DAS, a half-dozen 17-pound electro-optical and infrared sensors. These feed a helmet-mounted display that allows the pilot to effectively “see through the plane” and spot incoming aircraft and missiles.

In October 2014, Northrop and MDA launched FTX-20, an experiment to see, among other things, whether the DAS could track an enemy ICBM. They took data from the sensors, ran it through algorithms developed by Northrop and MDA’s Enterprise Sensor Lab, generated a 3D-moving picture of the missile’s trajectory, and conveyed it over the Link 16 tactical data exchange. This kind of targeting data can help cue the U.S. Navy’s anti-ballistic missile destroyers or short- and intermediate-range missile defenses like the Army’s Terminal High Altitude Area Defense, or THAAD, missile battery deployed in South Korea.

The F-35 sensors aren’t meant to replace the infrared satellites that detect launches, or the sea-based X-Band Radar that can feed targeting data about missile launches to destroyers. Rather, Northrop officials said, the DAS data would help the other missile-defense gear get a targeting track on a missile more quickly, improving the odds of nailing the shot. (You also need two of them in the air for triangulation.)

“That information can go straight to the Patriot [missile system], THAAD, or anywhere else, who has communication with that platform,” John “Bama” Montgomery, a business development manager at Northrop’s ISR & Targeting Division, said on Tuesday.

One drawback is that unlike satellite or ground-based radar, two F-35s must be kept within detection range of the launchpad at all times. But the targeting information they could provide would be priceless.

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