View Single Post
Old 29th Sep 2008, 12:32
  #35 (permalink)  
Ecce Homo! Loquitur...
Join Date: Jul 2000
Location: Peripatetic
Posts: 10,915
AW&ST - 22nd Sept: "Two for One"
Limited weapon-bay space in F-35 drives talks at the Pentagon on a new weapon

Options to expand the limited internal weapons capacity of the F-35 JSF are emerging as operators begin thinking seriously about how they will use the stealthy aircraft's combat capability.

THe USAF and USN have begun talks talks to define the Joint Dual-Role Air Dominance Missile (JDRADM) intended to replace both the air-to-air AIM-120 AMRAAM and anti-radar AGM-88 Harm beyond 2020 and allow the F-35 to defend itself against both opposing fighters and air defenses.

Operators are concerned the baseline F-35 will carry only two AIM-120s internally, in addition to air-to-ground munitions. The larger AGM-88 is an option for external carriage only, but is not on the weapons road map for the JSF.

"I wake up in a cold sweat at the thought of the F-35 going in with only two air dominance weapons", Maj Richard Koch, chief of USAF Air Combat Command's advanced air dominance branch, told an IDGA air-launched weapons conference in Vienna, Va, last week.......

Separately, studies into "super-packing" the JSF's bays to increase the number of weapons carried have come up with a way of loading six AMRAAM-sized missiles internally, according to the program office. This could be an option for later F-35 capability blocks.*

The JSF program office (JPO) meanwhile, says it will cost at least $100 million to add a new weapon beyond the initial suite being integrated under the F-35 development program. Weapons planned to be cleared for the baseline Block 3 JSF include two AIM-120s internally and two AIM-9X externally on the outboard wing pylons.

Block 4, proposed for funding beginning from 2015, would add the latest AIM-120D and AIM-9X Block 2. New air-to-ground weaponry would include the the Small-Diameter-Bomb Increment 2, Dual-Mode [email protected] Bomb and AGM-154C-1 Joint Stand-off Wweapon, all carrier internally.

"Anything beyond Block 4 is notional", Capt. John Martins, JPO air vehicle director cautioned at the conference, but the program office has a "wish list" of weapons for Block 5 (targeted for 2017). Block 5 includes the anti-armour Joint Air-to-Ground Missile and anti-ship Joint Strike Missile internally, as well as [email protected] guided 70mm rockets, AIM-120s, JDAMs and JSOWs externally. Block 6 would nitionally add the European Meteor BVR missile and the UK's Spear air-to-ground missile......

With no anti-radiation weapon programmed for the F-35, the Air Force and navy continue on their separate ways, with a decision on low-rate initial production of the U.S. Navy's AGM-88e Advanced ARM Guided Missile (AARGM) scheduled in October...... The Navy requires 1,750 AARGMs...... IOC is planned for 2010 on the F/A-18C/D followed later by the F/A-18E/F and the EA-18G......

The Air Force's position is not to spend additional money on HARM upgrades, including AARGM, but to focus instead on weapons suitable for carriage in stealth aircraft... The Air Force has in excess of 2,000 HARM in it's stockpile....

*(The above, of course, is based on the larger internal bay of the F-35A/C, not the smaller one of the F-35B. So which, if any, of the alternate designs being considered would fit is open to question. Even if something like the super-pack were possible, which I doubt, I also doubt whether the capability to bring it back aboard wouldn't be there either.)

Last edited by ORAC; 29th Sep 2008 at 12:55.
ORAC is online now