Here’s how America’s new combat-proven iron dome destroys rockets


The Air Force’s new versatile and stealthy F-35A Joint Strike Fighter offers an unprecedented ability to destroy targets in the air, attack moving enemies on the ground, and broadcast footage of the battlefield across the air. force in real time, an Air Force pilot told Scout Warrior. in a special interview.

Stealth Fighter makes it easier for pilots to locate, track and destroy enemy targets under a wide range of combat circumstances including attacks at farther distances than existing fighters can operate, the F-35A pilot said.

An F-35A Lightning II from Hill Air Force Base, Utah, takes off from Nellis AFB, Nev., Feb. 2, 2017, during Red Flag 17-01. This is the first F-35A deployment to Red Flag since the Air Force declared the fighter jet ready in August 2016. (US Air Force photo by R. Nial Bradshaw)

Speaking to Scout Warrior as part of a special “Inside the Cockpit” function on the F-35A, Air Force Col. Todd Canterbury, a former F-35 pilot and instructor, said the new fighter brings a wide array of new technologies, including advanced sensor, radar, attack weapon and computer technology.

Although now head of the operations division of the F-35 Integration Office at the Pentagon, Canterbury has previously trained F-35 pilots at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. Canterbury is uniquely positioned. to find out the F-35’s margins of difference, as it has spent thousands of hours flying traditional planes such as the service’s F-15 and F-16 fighters.

“The F-35 is a dream to fly. It is the easiest plane to fly. I can now focus on the job and winning the battle instead of looking at disparate information and trying to manage the plane, ”Canterbury told Scout Warrior.

Canterbury was referring to an often-discussed technological advance with the F-35 called “sensor fusion,” a system that places radar, targeting, navigation and altitude information on a single, integrated screen that pilots can view.

As a result, pilots can rely on computer algorithms to see a “merged” image of their battlespace and no longer need to look at different screens to target coordinates, air speed, mapping and terrain information, sensor feeds, or incoming data from a speed camera warning. recipient.

The F-35s Electro-Optical Targeting System, or EOTS, combines infrared and prospective infrared search and tracking technology for pilots, allowing them to find and track targets before attacking with guided precision weapons laser and GPS.

Here's how America's new combat-proven iron dome destroys rockets
Lt. Col. Christine Mau, 33rd Operations Group puts on her helmet before taking her first flight in the F-35A at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Marleah Robertson)

“I can turn my head and look left or right. There is a sighting cross on my helmet, sighting symbology that tells me how to get there. The system will pivot to the point on the court that I have designated, ”Canterbury explained.

The EOT system is designed to work in tandem with a technology called the Distributed Aperture System, or DAS, a set of six cameras strategically mounted around the aircraft to provide the pilot with a 360-degree view.

“I can look through the plane and see the ground below me. I can look directly below me without having to obscure my vision, ”Canterbury said.

DAS includes precision tracking, fire control capabilities, and the ability to warn the pilot of an approaching threat or missile.

The F-35 is also designed with an electronically scanned active array radar that is capable of tracking a multitude of electromagnetic signals, including Synthetic Aperture Radar, or SAR, returns. This paints a picture of the contours of the surrounding ground or terrain and, together with the Ground Moving Target Indicator, or GMTI, locates something moving on the ground and airborne objects or threats.

Also read: This is why Trump’s 90 F-35 announcement was such a big deal

The F-35’s software packages are developed in increments; the Marine Corps has declared its F-35B short take-off and vertical landing with software increment or “drop” 2B.

Block 2B builds on the improved simulated weapons, data link capabilities, and early integration of merged sensors from the earlier version of Block 2A software. Block 2B allows the JSF to provide basic close air support and fire an AMRAAM (Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missile), JDADM (Joint Direct Attack Munition) or GBU 12 (Laser Guided Air Bomb), have said those responsible for the JSF program.

The next increment, 3i blocks will increase combat capability even more, and 3F block will bring significantly increased ability to suppress enemy air defenses.

The Air Force plans to achieve operational status with Block 3i software this year. Full operational capability will come with Block 3F, service officials said.

Block 3F will also increase the weapons delivery capability of the JSF, giving it the ability to drop a small-diameter bomb, a 500-pound JDAM and an AIM 9X short-range air-to-air missile, officials said. ‘Air Force.

Here's how America's new combat-proven iron dome destroys rockets
F-35A smiling for the camera. (Photo: Lockheed Martin)

Canterbury also spoke about how Air Force engineers and experts were making progress in building a computer library on the plane, called the Mission Data Files.

“Experts are working feverishly to list any threats we might be facing,” he said.

Described as the brain of the aircraft, mission data files are vast onboard data systems compiling information about geography, airspace, and potential threats in known areas of the world where the F-35 could be. required to carry out combat operations, he explained. .

Made up of hardware and software, mission data files are essentially a database of known threats and friendly aircraft in specific parts of the world. The files are being processed in the reprogramming lab at Eglin Air Force Base in Fla., Air Force officials said.

Mission data packets contain a wide range of information, including information on commercial airliners and details on Russian and Chinese fighter jets. For example, the mission data system would allow a pilot to quickly identify a Russian MiG-29 if it was detected by the F-35’s sensors.

Mission data files are designed to accommodate new threat information and intelligence as it emerges. For example, the system might one day have all the details of a Chinese J-20 stealth fighter or a Russian T-50 PAK FA stealth plane.

The first operational F-35A fighters have already been delivered to Hill Air Force Base in Utah, and Air Force officials say the service has launched some small mini-deployments to the United States to prepare the platform. at deployment.

Along with its technologies, weapons, sensors, and individual systems, the F-35 is perhaps best appreciated for its multi-role capabilities, meaning it can perform a wide range of different missions, from close air support to air-to-ground attack. air-to-air engagements and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, or ISR.

Related: Here’s How The F-35 Took Down The Competition In Its Last Test

The aircraft’s sensor technologies allow the platform to perform a much greater ISR function than previous aircraft, giving it a “drone-like” capability to collect and broadcast surveillance information. As part of this, the F-35 can also use a specially designed data link to communicate in real time with other F-35s and other planes and fighters.

“With the interoperability of the data link network, we can talk to each other as well as with fourth generation aircraft,” Canterbury explained.

The F-35A can function as a reconnaissance aircraft, an air-to-air fighter, an air-to-ground fighter, or a stealth aircraft designed to evade enemy air defenses, Canterbury explained.

“While stealth is important in the early stages of warfare to destroy built-in air defenses and allow fourth generation fighters to fly, we don’t need stealth all the time,” Canterbury said. “I can use my stealth and electronic attack to see an opponent long before they see me.”

For example, the F-35A is well suited for roaming an area and providing fire support to ground units in close combat. In order to perform such missions, the F-35 will have a 25mm Gatling gun mounted on top of the operational aircraft by 2017.

The F-35 has 11 weapon stations, including seven external weapon stations for bombs or fuel.

“If we don’t need stealth, I can load that up with guns and be a bomb truck,” Canterbury explained.

Ultimately, the Air Force plans to acquire more than 1,700 F-35As.


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