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F-35 SAM Killing Mission May Have to Wait For New Jamming Technology

The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter is intended to replace the F-16 and A-10 as the military’s primary tactical strike aircraft; its stealth will allow it to penetrate advanced enemy air defenses or at least get close enough before it’s detected to knock them out.

The Air Force says the fifth generation aircraft was designed from the bottom-up to be the air arm’s premier surface-to-air missile killer. Yet, it may be many years before the F-35 is equipped with an electronics warfare suite which allows it to penetrate the thickest SAM belts, according to AvWeek’s David Fulghum.

The advanced Russian built S-300 SAM family is slowly making its way out into the world (so far, the system’s high cost has hurt sales). The “antidote” for the S-300’s long range, high-altitude sensors and missiles is the Next Generation Jammer (NGJ), Fulghum says, a program currently run by the Navy. Problem is, the NGJ won’t be fielded until 2018 at the earliest; industry is slated to present its latest and greatest in radar jamming to the program office sometime next year.

Network intrusion, hacking or spoofing an air-defense network, all the rage in air-defense defeat these days, will not be part of NGJ’s initial iteration; nor electronic circuit frying high-power microwave pulses. At least to begin with, it appears, NGJ will focus on brute-force jamming.

– Greg Grant

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{ 42 comments… read them below or add one }

WTQ August 3, 2010 at 2:28 pm

F-35 replacing the A-10?…oh pretty please, give me a break. The AF needs to pull their heads out of their asses quickly.

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JEFF August 3, 2010 at 2:44 pm

Thats what they've been saying since the F35 started. It just goes to show the Air Force has no idea what an Attack aircraft looks like.

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William A. Peterson August 4, 2010 at 3:18 am

Oh, they do…
They just wish, desperately, that they could forget!
They consider the CAS mission to be a nightmare, not a job requirement!

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Michael August 3, 2010 at 5:45 pm

Yeah, they wanted the F-16 to replace the A-10 too.

Maybe after the lease on life the SLEP provided the A-10 runs out…

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WTQ August 3, 2010 at 6:47 pm

Even buying a crapload of second hand ex-Soviet Su-25 would be much wiser than letting the F-35 replace the A-10. Troops on the ground and common sense ask for more CAS, the Army even wants a light CAS/COIN prop plane to complement the A-10, but what the hell is wrong with those AF idiots? no CAS/COIN, no A-10, seriously? are they going to win wars inflicting awe on enemies with Mach+2 passes?

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citanon August 3, 2010 at 7:56 pm

The F35 has an integrated mid-IR electro-optical tracking system. It's got sensors that can look and target in 360 degrees, directly through the airframe. He's got a helmet that will let him hit exactly what' he's looking at. It's got every manner of communications imaginable. In addition to the internal bays it's got six external hard point to carry additional ammo.

In other words, the F-35 pilot can see better, shoot better, communicate better, and have more time to assess critical situations than the A-10 pilot. With the stealth capability it can show up to fights that the A-10 can't.

What more do you want?

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Blight August 4, 2010 at 8:54 am

An F-35 lacks redundant controls or the titanium bathtub. Look up Kim Campbell’s A-10; pictures were circulating with its severe battle damage. Shot up over Baghdad, made it back to base after losing hydraulics. Doubtful if any other aircraft could have taken that kind of beating and escaped…the pilot would be dead or an POW, which in turn leads to more risks in the name of leave no-one behind.

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citanon August 4, 2010 at 7:02 pm

It doesn't have to Blight. F-35s will operate in a way that will not expose them to as much ground fire. Its advanced optics and targeting systems allow it to do CAS with precision weapons from higher altitude than the A-10.

CajunGrunt August 4, 2010 at 9:06 am

So what exactly is your job at Lockheed-Martin, citanon? LOL

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citanon August 4, 2010 at 7:04 pm

I don't work at LM or any defense contractor. I don't even like the F-35 that much, but this single minded focus on aircraft that can fly low and slow and strafe ground targets (ie A-10, or the light attack aircraft), just seems irrational to me.

Blight August 5, 2010 at 8:20 am

If we want bomb truck fighter planes in the long run the UAVs could do it for less price and no dead pilots.

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blight August 3, 2010 at 2:30 pm

When the air force quits the CAS business, what next?

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slntax August 3, 2010 at 2:41 pm

wow over promise over charge and under deliver! whats next the f-35 can only operate in the daylight!!! day by day seems like the cabilities of this project is being reduced…..

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Nicholas Smith August 3, 2010 at 3:06 pm

Wow! I didn't know the F-35 had a titanium bathtub around the pilot, just like the A-10! Wow! That's soooooo cool! (LOL)

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Matt August 3, 2010 at 3:31 pm

The best part (from an A-10 perspective) is that only the A version will have a gun and it only holds 180 rounds. Oh, you can sling an external gun on the B & C with a whopping 220 rounds. Can you image this thing supporting the troops now? The AF needs to wake up and forget this gold plated garbage.

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citanon August 3, 2010 at 8:07 pm

Why does it need a big gun if each F-35 can carry 24 SDBs, or a similar number of Brimstones, or even more laser guided Hydras?

Why does it need to fly close to the ground when the camera on board can zoom in from 15000 feet up and see better than the A-10 pilot can flying close to the ground?

Which situation do you think is less likely to result in fratricide;

A. an A-10 pilot flying close to the ground under intense stress from trying not to crash or get hit by IR guided MANPADs and ground fire.
B. A F-35 pilot flying at 15000 feet, able to see just as well, invulnerable to ground fire and in no danger of crashing?

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Drake1 August 3, 2010 at 3:48 pm

It's not like we don't have F-22s. This is hardly a disaster.

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JEFF August 3, 2010 at 5:02 pm

We don't have enough. The F-22s are enought to run their air superiority role. We'd need more to be able to use them in a dedicated attack role.

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Drake1 August 3, 2010 at 5:25 pm

Don't have enough? How many countries are out there fielding these things that we need to launch simultaneous strikes on? We still have F-15s, and the F-22s can be moved around accordingly (like they currently are) to deal with threats.

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@Earlydawn August 3, 2010 at 3:50 pm

Time to cut our losses; cancel the F-35, reinvest in the F-15SE for the air superiority role, and upgrade the A-10 and produce new airframes. Put all the left-over money into getting the Air Force a dedicated electronic warfare aircraft - that is a mind-bogglingly large hole in the branch's capabilities. Anything left over goes into more drones.

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William C. August 3, 2010 at 5:00 pm

Now I love the A-10, and I would love to see it put back into production, but short of that happening they will have to be replaced by 2028 or whatever the planned retirement date of the A-10C is. And unless the USAF gets funding for a new attack aircraft by that point, they would be relying on the F-35.

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Byron Skinner August 3, 2010 at 1:58 pm

Good Morning Folks,

This is desperation on the part of the supporters of the F-35. Just for a moment use you heads instead of you ideology. First the mission off suppression of ADM’s has always been given to the oldest air frames and for very good reason, it is dangerous “The Wild Weasel” missions during Vietnam War when this was started became know for the number of DSC’s awarded to pilot’s pilots, widows.

Secondly and quite simply by the time any F-35′s get operational this will become a PRV mission. The new generation of AGM missiles for this mission are being designed for the PRV.

The truth is like the F-22′s that are following US air liners around the country there is no mission for the F-35, and flying into enemy ADM’s is not a good choice for the uber expensive air frame. that is not already being done and/or could be done cheaper at less risk of the POW issue.

ALLONS,
Byron Skinner

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Oblat August 4, 2010 at 7:53 am

>there is no mission for the F-35

The mission is to penetrate congressional head-space and bring back the bacon.

A stealth aircraft that cant penetrate enemy airspace unless it has a barrage jamming pod ? - talk about a lemon

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Andres August 3, 2010 at 6:14 pm

JASSM-ER

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STemplar August 3, 2010 at 6:38 pm

The weasels were made on the move in Nam and ultimately used the thuds and then the Phantoms, which were line strike planes of the day. The phantoms continued into desert storm. The Navy is buying the F-18 growlers which have been in development since 2001? 2000? So it isn't like they have always been the oldest air frames, they were just thrown together originally in Nam with what was available at the time the NVA began shooting us down with SAMs. Really had Johnson allowed the USAF to bomb the sites when they were being built you gotta wonder if we would've ever even developed the weasels.

Beyond all that there is the question of the expense of the F35. I don't think the 'cancel the whole program' option is worth discussing, because with a Sec of Def pushing for the plane, backed by a President, with a Congress trying to heap a pork second engine on the program, it is a given the F35 is going to happen.

The discussion then has to turn to how do you save money within that constraint. I think if a reduced buy were pushed, coupled to buying other air frames for the non stealthy role you might be able to save money and get Congress to agree. I don't know for certain though and any money saved on production might be gobbled up with multiple air frames to be supported. I do know without a doubt though, between the White House and the Congress, unless there are massive additional cost overruns the F35 is here to stay, good, bad or otherwise.

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The bear August 4, 2010 at 1:03 pm

The weasel mision did start with the F 100.

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anonymous August 3, 2010 at 9:46 pm

Replace the A-10 NEVER

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Charlie August 3, 2010 at 10:44 pm

The Air Force still does not understand ground support. It's outside of the "mission" that the Air force believes it has. The Army and the Marines still need to be able to provide close air support with something other than whirly birds(Forget Key West!). An interesting comparison we made some years ago had to do with superimposing preformance graphs of WWII fighters and the old JU-87.
We then did the same thing with then modern jet fighters and the venerable A-10.
Funny thing, the overlays showed consistent relationships that more or less define what ground attack aircraft need to be and able to do.

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ZRH537 August 4, 2010 at 1:19 am

a 7.62 round could take down an F35. Shoot a 7.62 at an A-10 he is either not gonna notice or he will notice and bank hard to make a straffing run of lead, maybe even fly low enough to clip a few trees and keep going. A-10 needs to stick around

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edj August 4, 2010 at 2:06 am

Do I see a common thread here. The A10 is the plane of the past present and future. The F 22 was to fill a need as was the F117. There not even being ,ade anymore. The A10 is the aircraft that is needed for the warfare we are currently engaged in and the future. Ask any one on the ground. Do they want an F35 garding them or an A10.
Just more PORK for the Washington Do nothings but screw up.

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roland August 4, 2010 at 5:34 am

If we were worried that much about SAM missiles, why not buy some of them from our allies? Like Georgia (breakaway Soviet Union) and Greece who have these, buy one of these from them, study it and modify our defenses, to include technology that can be used by our F-35 defenses. They also have missile boats w/c we can also buy from them.

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STemplar August 4, 2010 at 8:07 am

Because we really aren't that worried. We just like to say we are in the Pentagon to get our spending requests approved. We actually will probably walk right into any airspace we want and flatten whatever we like with our current inventory. Problem is when people know that, they won't pay for shiny new toys.

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William C. August 4, 2010 at 3:48 pm

Good luck keeping 30 year old F-16s in service for another 30 years.

Truth is we need something like the F-35 is supposed to be and something like the A-10. You can't make one aircraft do everything.

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kirt August 4, 2010 at 5:15 pm

Is this another case of the military brains putting the cart before the horse?
Or is this another excutive branch decision that only benifits the other side?

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BMiller August 4, 2010 at 5:37 pm

Only a fool would take the A-10's out of service, there is no replacement even on the design table; they fly low and slow; the enemy see's the color in our pilots eyes as they die; the cannon gatlon gun has no equal anywhere on this planet. I would like to see the A-10 get some up to date electronics; say the spot and forget targeting so the cannon can continue wiping the enemy off the planet as the other targets are destroyed. All the pilots testimonies I've witnessed make it another day at the park flying this magnificent aircraft sends the enemy on an express ride to hell. They wouldn't fly anything else; its a thrill to look the enemy in the eyes while you seperate the soul and body. The A-10's should never be replaced.

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BMiller August 4, 2010 at 5:37 pm

Fact: The F-35 and the Raptor F-22 are long range targeting and while they are to be feared, they don't leave much time to do so; they don't know they are even out there until they find out the 72 Virgins all went on PMS at the same time, AHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!?
First things first; Prove there is a clear replacement that does the job better than the current aircraft before even thinking about replacing it. Time is relative; they could last another 100 years with upgrades.

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metoo August 4, 2010 at 7:12 pm

They want to replace the nations only EW bird's(EA-6B prowlers) with this and it does not have EW capabilities. The airforce does have a dedicated bird for this it is called the prowler, although they are Navy/Airforce operated squadron. This happened when the AF retired their ef-111 ravens.

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Tony C August 5, 2010 at 10:49 am

I don't suppose the weight issue has been a factor here? The ECM suite isn't even installed and the F-35 is over weight to the point of pulling fire extinguishers. The plane will be so heavy it won't take off from an Aircraft Carrier.

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Enthusiast August 5, 2010 at 2:03 pm

So, new jamming technology is the “antidote” for the S-300’s ? Reason why? Where and when it was proved? S-300 have advanced counter-jamming capabilities, even considering a fact that it's little bit outdated system from 1980's. Even with upgrades, S-300 series is not most advanced long range air defese solution. S-400 is in Russia's service now and it will be offered for export (in export modification) in a next years.
Anyway, jamming system which will be fitted on F-35 will have very limited capabilities against sophisticated SAM network due lack of enough power. What is sophisticated SAM network? It's not just a single S-300, but also ground-based powerful radar jammers , dummy targets (fake radar stations), anti-ARM system, close to medium range SAM intended to protect "large" systems and air defence assets from missiles and bombs…. All of these linked in defense network.
F-35 with this "wounderwaffe" jamming tech will be nearly useless against any nearby sophisticated S-300-based network.

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anonimous August 5, 2010 at 4:19 pm

In what information is based your post?

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Patrick August 5, 2010 at 5:12 pm

Too much faith in technology. The boots on the ground want dedicated CAS, not a plane that is a jack of all trades but a master of none.

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citanon August 6, 2010 at 2:24 am

Even when the F-35 can show up where A-10s can't?

Remember that the A-10 will be extended until 2028. Give the F-35 a chance to prove itself. If it doesn't work you can ask for another platform.

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