Air Force: JSF Will Redefine Age Old Doctrine for Fighters

sdd_lripa_002The advent and upcoming operational use of new Joint Strike Fighter (JSF)-aircraft cockpit information technology is likely to generate new paradigms for implementing the widely known Observe, Orient, Decide, Act OODA-loop concept made famous in the 1970’s by former Air Force Fighter Pilot Col. John Boyd, Air Force officials said.

Boyd, who flew F-86 Sabre aircraft during the Korean War and went on to be a military theorist and Pentagon consultant, conceived of the OODA-loop notion as a method of winning a dogfight against an enemy fighter jet by, in part, more quickly anticipating fast-changing circumstances, orienting, observing, deciding and “acting.”  In essence, a thrust of the idea was to synthesize information rapidly and make accurate and impactful decisions more quickly than an opponent.

These days, the fusing of sensor, weapons and electronic data made available to fighter pilots and air crews – in conjunction with the rapid integration with numerous mobile command and control centers — provides new areas of application upon which to utilize or apply the OODA-loop paradigm, said Lt. Gen. Charles Davis, Military Deputy in the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition.

“We’re becoming much more efficient in terms of how we use information,” Davis explained. “Probably the most unique enabler that has come along since Desert Storm, Iraq, Afghanistan or Libya is the integration with our command and control centers and the Air Operations centers such as the AWACS the JSTARS.”

As a result, instead of only needing to Orient, Observe, Decide and Act relative to the actions taken by the “nose” of an enemy fighter jet — air crews in a Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) aircraft, for example, will be able to make rapid decisions regarding what a potential enemy might be doing elsewhere as well – such as moving Surface to Air Missiles (SAMS) on the ground, Davis explained.

“Thing are becoming a much more holistic battle, maybe, than when Boyd was flying his F-86.  He was focused on what you see the guy [enemy fighter] doing and where his nose was going. Now, you can sit and bring sensors in to decide about what the enemy is thinking about – such as taxiing his airplane or moving his AAA [Anti-Aircraft Artillery] or SAMS.  There is an Observe, Orient, Decide and Act scenario that goes well beyond what you are watching a guy do with his airplane,” Davis explained.

While offering a relevant strategic insight regarding the potentially broader application of OODA-loop-type thinking and criteria, Davis’ comments in particular were offered in the context of a discussion about what he referred to as the game-changing, next-generation capabilities contained in the now-in-development F-35 JSF stealth aircraft.

For instance, the sensors and the integration with the JSF will improve a fighter-jet’s ability to conduct Intelligence, Reconnaissance and Surveillance (ISR) missions as well as integrate more quickly with those air assets which exclusively perform those missions, Davis explained.

“We’ve got to quit thinking of how we would use that airplane in terms of traditional missions.  You are going to be picking up all kinds of visual and electronic data everytime you launch the airplane. It is providing you the next two or three levels above in terms of detail and whatever may be out there on the battlefield,” Davis said.

For instance, a JSF will be able to provide much more fidelity and definition in terms of the visuals and the current and future electronic signals of the battlefield, he added.

‘The actual level of intelligence you can gather with a two or a four ship of F-35s out there will certainly match or exceed the basic capability that comes off of the things we have out there now – the Predators, Reapers and other airplanes,” Davis explained.

All of the access to additional combat-relevant information in real time brings with it the requisite need to at times make fast determinations in battle, as Boyd’s OODA-loop initially suggests is necessary in dog-fights.

“With the JSF, you see a fused picture of all the sensors that are on board so you are looking at an integrated picture of every signal that it picks up. It not only offers the pilot much better SA {situational awareness}, but it also helps you prioritize what his next action should be,” Davis explained.

For instance, instead of having a need to view and consider information from a host of different displays such as a radar picture, radar warning picture, data-link picture and targeting-pod picture, a JSF air-crew will be able to simultaneously view a wide-range of information in real-time, Davis added.

“Think of it as taking every data source that is out there and getting an understandable, actionable picture display in the cockpit – as opposed to the days where it was federated, meaning you had to look at a radar display, a target display and a data link display,” Davis said.

Also, a Low Altitude Navigation and Targeting Infrared for Night (LANTIRN) Pod can help JSF aircrews geo-locate incoming signals from the ground such as enemy air defenses, radar and other electronic signals.

In addition, The JSF is engineered with its own internal focused and highly specific Electronic Attack capability because the aircraft will need to function in what strategists refer to as heavily-denied areas, Davis added.

As part of its high-tech line up of networking technologies, the JSF is configured to use LINK 16 a high-speed tactical digital data link. The aircraft is also built with a Electronically-Scanned Array (ESA) radar able to provide synthetic aperture rendering of air and ground pictures, Davis explained.

“It’s an ESA radar which produces a synthetic aperture picture, so it produces both air-to-air and air-to-ground pictures. Most of our new advanced electronically scanned array radars today do that,” he said.

The JSF program developmental strategy is, in part, grounded upon a series of incremental software “drops” — each one adding new capability to the platform. In total, there are more than 10 billion individual lines of code for the system, broken down into increments and “blocks,” F-35 program office officials explained.

“Software development remains a focus area of the joint program office. We have a solid baseline and we need to be able to execute on that,” said Joe DellaVedova, F-35 program office spokesman.

Software drop 2B is undergoing flight testing at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., and Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Md; software Block 2B builds upon the enhanced simulated weapons, data link capabilities and early fused sensor integration of the Block 2A software drop, DellaVedova added.

“With Block 2B you can provide basic close air support and fire an AMRAAM {Advanced Medium Range Air to Air Missile}, JDAM [Joint Direct Attack Munition] or GBU 12 [laser-guided aerial bomb]. This allows the plane to become a very capable weapons system,” he said.

Overall, DellaVedova said the F-35 program office has been making substantial progress. Software drop 3I, which is a technical refresh of Block 2B, is slated to be ready by 2016.

Davis explained that the Air Force plans to achieve Initial Operating Capability with its variant of the JSF by 2016 with the 2B/3i software configuration; the final 3F software block will bring an increased ability to suppress enemy air defenses, he added.

Overall, Davis emphasized that the Joint Strike Fighter acquisition effort underscores the importance of maturing and prototyping new technologies before they are fully or formally developed as part of an acquisition program.

“Very rarely should we be out maturing new technologies in new platforms. We should let something go through the process of maturing new technology. Then, once we are certain that it is at a usable level, our acquisition programs can do the hard work of integrating,” Davis explained.

Davis emphasized that the capabilities of an F-35 are so much more advanced compared to today’s F-15 and F-16 aircraft – that a side-by-side-type comparative discussion is not merited.

“An F-35 is the equivalent of an F-16 with three fuel tanks,  sniper pod, two 2,000-pound JDAMS {Joint Direct Attack Munitions}, two AMRAAMs { Advanced Medium Range Air to Air Missile} and two AIM 9Xs…. in a stealth configuration,” Davis explained.  “That is not a configuration an F-16 can fly.”

About the Author

Kris Osborn
Kris Osborn is the managing editor of Scout Warrior.
  • Tad

    Must be F-35 funding season in Congress.

  • Ben

    Too bad the pilot can’t see behind him.

  • Ben

    LANTRIN pod? Isn’t that 1980s tech?

  • blight_

    Too bad that focusing on the tech makes the F-35 a meat puppet for the magical technology capabilities, not the fighter itself. It indeed sounds like an excellent fighter, but the R&D cost is not a pleasant one to bear.

    • Kole

      Let alone new IRST developments in other countries….

    • citanon

      If it was easy to bear every country would have it, and you would not get an advantage at all. It’s called a high barrier to entry folks. It’s a nice thing to have when “entry” means the other guy killing you.

      • blight_

        The only reason why the F-35 is important right now is that it is allegedly designed from the outset to operate with the doodads we are making for it (since they are part of the same acquisition program).

        No matter the outcome of the F-35, the vendors will want to make money off of their product. The stuff will find its way to export customers whether or not we have an F-35 to put it into.

  • Kelly

    I’m sure the F-35 will be an adequate delivery truck for SDBs and chauffeur for many fancy sensors. There’s almost no chance it would ever be in a contested airspace, so whether it actually performs as advertised (at some unspecified point in the future) is moot.

    • SJPONeill

      In which case, you could probably use a C-130 as an adequate delivery truck for SDBs and chauffeur for many fancy sensors in permissive airspace…

    • blight_

      “There’s almost no chance it would ever be in a contested airspace”

      We’ll see about that. In American and Israeli use, we’ll certainly be kicking people’s doors in…

    • James Hasik

      Why “almost no chance”? That seems an unsupportable statement.

      • d. kellogg

        In all seriousness, when IS the last time the US faced credible contested airspace?
        Perhaps Desert Shield/Storm much more than early OIF, before that MAYBE Libya under Reagan.
        But seriously, a genuine credible opponent?
        It’s only these folks screaming “don’t trust the chinese! don’t trust them sneaky russians!” who seem to be pushing hardest for these new aircraft.

        Seems to me excepot for the very costly airframe, any and all of the F-35’s actual avionics, sensors, radar, EO system, and especisally the weapons it will actuall kill with, are perfectly adaptable to a majority of current tried-and-trusted airframes.
        The F-35 seems little more than a severely oiverpriced F-117 replacement, a 1st-week-of-war strike platform that in theory will be protercted by F-22s on any foreign incursion where air dominance is a must.
        If it isn’t Russia or China, who then, in all seriousness?

        Why again do we need to stir up a war with them?

  • Nessuno
  • Big-Dean

    Lockhead just adapted the Microsoft model, kill the customer with constant updates of code while charging lots of $$$ for each update.

  • Nick

    Talk about sugar coating bullshit! All this BS about this and that is unproven stuff that’s looks good on paper but hasn’t been put in practice. What about dog fighting? Are we back in the 50’s and 60’s were everyone thought dogfighting was a thing of the past. This sorry lame ass excuse of an airplane can’t maneuver. This article never mentioned it because it can’t. One of these days we will get into a war were visual engaugement will happen and it will have to dogfight. The brass doesn’t talk about it because they know how much capability has been givin up to feild this aircraft at the cost that it is so they drum up articles like this one to sell us on this disaster.

  • SJE

    Sounds like you could incorporate most of the improved sensors, comm etc into existing aircraft that, y’know, actually fly

    • Belesari

      And there is the secret. It wasn’t the plane so much as all of the systems. And in the name of politics and Joint descriptions we get to pay for all of the R&D and will soon see the same tech on a bunch of other aircraft a lot of it foreign.


        Ahem China Ahem.

  • SJPONeill

    I wonder if this guy has ever read any of Boyd’s work? If her had he might know that the OODA loop has always been much broader in application that just mano-a-mano A2A combat. More mindless F-35 hype…

  • wmcritter

    I don’t care how much ISR capability it has, it still can’t replace an A-10, which they say it is supposed to do. It still has no range, it still can’t fly low and slow, it still can’t take a hit and survive. It is the worst possible option to replace an A-10. Using the F-35 for CAS will get a lot of good pilots and boots on the ground killed.

  • hibeam

    The new doctrine is centered around doing all the expensive development work and then allowing your adversary to download it. The woo, woo, woo,…nyuck, nyuck, nyuck doctrine or W3 N3 in military parlance.

    • blight_

      I’m curious to know how much of JSF’s hardware is meant to go to export customers. Either it’s the same hardware with features disabled in software, or a dumbed down hardware+software set.

  • Sanem

    by 2020 UCAVs will rule the skies, through numbers and stealth they’ll make any manned platform obsolete

    the main use for manned platforms will be as forward UAV operators and data relays, and in this role an F-16 with 2020 tech will do the F-35’s job at a fraction of the cost

  • Ben

    The JSF won’t be able to do most of the what an F-16C Block 52 can do right now for many years until all the JSF software is written.

    • d. kellogg

      Same can be said for the latest F-15 and F/A-18 variants: there’s no real tech in the F-35 than can’t port over, EXCEPT for the low observability airframe.
      And again, after that 1st week of a war against whatever credible threat we feel we need F-35s to strike, all these older types (teen series) and even the bomber fleet will be the real workhorses logging the excessive mission hours around the clock.

      The really disheartening thing is, while we DO have the latest-and-greatest in the Super Hornet E/F/G aircraft, it is our F-15s and F-16s that are lacking in comparison to what the latest foreign customers are buying in them.
      NOT buying newest-and-best F-15s and -16s is how we justify ~needing~ F-22s and -35s,…

  • Joe

    This platform will not replace the A-10. The A-10 will simply be retired without replacement.

  • Josh

    If only some of you put as much effort into finding the positive aspects of the news as you do the negative, maybe you would support the program slightly more than you currently do.

  • Belesari

    This isn’t replacing the A-10. The A-10’s are being upgraded. The Air Force will simply make sure nothing like it is built again so it can make sure all combat begins at 10,000+ feet and if the guys on the ground are screwed by it? what of it.

  • oblatt1

    The F-35 will usher in a new age – gone will be the grainy hud camera views of a F-16 pilot dodging 6 SAMs over Iraq instead the F-35s DAS can stream 360 degree HD video to you tube as it strains to pull 4G trying hopelessly to escape only to end up as a fireball.
    Should make for some gripping – albeit short – viewing

  • Netta

    ” d. kellogg · 1 day ago
    In all seriousness, when IS the last time the US faced credible contested airspace?
    Perhaps Desert Shield/Storm much more than early OIF, before that MAYBE Libya under Reagan.
    But seriously, a genuine credible opponent?
    It’s only these folks screaming “don’t trust the chinese! don’t trust them sneaky russians!” who seem to be pushing hardest for these new aircraft.

    Read more:”

    Mr Kellog, I would like you to read up on the package Q situation, and then give me a modern tac air solution to hitting critical targets in contested air space.

    The loss of two F-16s can be attributed to a series of stresses, the lateness of the Air Tasking Order, not enough coordination time, a tactical approach that provided the Iraqis considerable warning, fuel problems for the Weasels and other aircraft, bad weather, and insufficient attrition of the defenses combined to create a dangerous situation.

    “There were a number of crucial lessons from Package Q. The most obvious was that Iraqi defenses in Baghdad remained lethal: future strikes on Baghdad would be mostly assigned to F-117s, but conventional air assets with better coordination would still strike targets downtown Baghdad.”

    Cruise missiles = Not the right munitions for some missions. Your not going to chase down a driving technical, or a BM launcher with Tlam.

    Drones= Not ready and in order for them to have all of the bells and whistles of a F-35 you would end up with a less capable F-35

    2000 F-22s= Not happening to expensive with limited basing

    Please gentle men. If I cant even fly legacy planes over vintage SA-3s How are we going to threaten targets?

  • Netta

    Futher More How do you solve issues with?

    1. Asymmetric Aircraft types?
    2. Planes dropping external loads when targeted?
    3. Communication in large strike groups?

    I think I know the answer.

  • Durin

    An F-35 is the equivalent of an F-16 with three fuel tanks, sniper pod, two 2,000-pound JDAMS {Joint Direct Attack Munitions}, two AMRAAMs { Advanced Medium Range Air to Air Missile} and two AIM 9Xs…. in a stealth configuration,” Davis explained. “That is not a configuration an F-16 can fly.

    even F-15 has its upgrade to stealth version as F-15SE, F-16s probablt can have one too, when aircrafts will be more aged.

  • Walter

    I’m no expert but weren’t there initial criticisms of the F-15 and that it was gonna be slow and couldn’t fight close-in either? Correct me if I’m wrong.

  • WCL

    I think what they really mean by “redefining age old doctrine” is that now the US will enjoy air inferiority rather than air superiority in the coming decades.

    Nice change of pace, eh?

  • Buck

    Besides enabling intel sharing, Link16 also is a radio beacon so that the enemy can find you better and and kill you.

  • DigitalSoul

    Observe, Orient, Destroy, Appologize

  • Badger130

    Doesn’t matter. The PRC have already hacked the specs and plans.

  • bigfig7

    When all the tech gadgetry fail you hope you can fall back on superior kinematic performance to save your bacon, unfortunatly I haven’t seen any indication that the F35 will have this fall back option unlike the F22!

  • CaptEirc

    98% of the hater posts on here contain wrong or just plain bad info. Not a one of them work on the inside. What they DON’T KNOW can fill an encyclopedia. Do you think for a moment that the DOD is going to release actual performance characteristics for the world to read? Get real. None of these wanna be experts will EVER get to fly this. This A/C couples with the F-22 (as it was designed to do) create a 5th generation plane that is unmatched. But they wouldn’t know that. Too busy complaining about things they only imagine they know.

  • gator

    If you a**holes only knew. This is the best fighter we have ever developed with capabilities you can’t even imagine. Give it a rest unless you have the clearance to know.

  • metfanlou

    And an unmanned drone can’t do all these things without risking a pilot except the one behind the control panel at Nellis?

  • Buffrat

    I remember when the M-1 Bradley, the Abrhams, the FB-111, the F-4 Phantom II, M-16, and a host of other weapon systems were also described in disparaging terms. The truth is no one knows how its going to perform until its in combat. And I for one am tired of hearing that slapping on some updated pods and software is going to make a 1960’s designed aircraft like the F-16 or F-15 is comparable to the F22 or F35. But what I do know is that despite all my reading, despite all my research, and despite all my contacts within DOD, I like the thousands of others on this blog, have no clue whether it will perform as advertised.

    • Mastro

      Well- the Phantom got shot down lots of times by the Mig 17 and would go into stall until they added slats to the wings circa 1970-

      The FB-111’s cost a fortune, did terribly on their first Nam deployment and was so expensive to operate the USAF dumped them about 15 minutes after the Berlin Wall fell.

      The M16 jammed like crazy until they chrome lined the barrel and supplied cleaning gear (still can’t believe they didn;’t do that)

      So – yeah- I’m worried.

  • TJRedneck

    I, like EVERYONE else here, do not know how the F-35 will actually perform in combat. Not just because of all the money spent, and not just because of all the aircraft that this will replace, but because of our pilots in harms way I hope and pray that this aircraft performs way beyond expectations and makes all the naysayers eat their words.

  • Arthur

    The F-35B has more range than a Harrier with ext. tanks. All models can see, ID and shoot down the guy behind them anytime.

  • Zspoiler

    maybe one of these centuries the F -35 will come on board. Maybe we should build a version of the F-16 XL for the Airforce ,And F/A-18`s for the Navy. We know these systems work.