Thursday, June 27, 2013

F-35: Quote of the day from Italian Defense Minister

Italy, as you know, like much of the world's countries, is going through some rough economic times.  So there is a lot of debate about their budget.  Italy's defense minister, Mario Mauro, said recently, that Italy has no plans on cancelling it's purchase of 90 F-35s.  His reasoning is both logical and compelling and brings us to the quote of the day:
"They are 90 combat jets that will replace 256 obsolete aircraft that will be retired, and our newest fighter is now 30 years old," Mauro said in an interview with state television RAI.
While it is the Italian Defense Minister saying it, the fact is pretty true about most of the airforces of our allies.  It's another reason that the JSF is so important to the US and allied nations, given what is being developed in China and Russia, both in 5th generation aircraft and air defense systems.  Without it, many airforces are reduced to 2nd rate self-defense forces which wouldn't last long against a concerted attack by a more sophisticated enemy.



  1. Just a question.How are they going to face other 5th generation radar evading fighters? With two short range Aim-9x mounted on racks outside? Or with an internal or external cannon?

    1. An F-35 would face a fifth-generation aircraft the same way it would face an older aircraft. You use either the AIM-120D, the AIM-9X, or the cannon (although the cannon has been increasingly pushed into a niche role). The only factor that changes is the detect-track-engage range.

  2. Their Eurofighters are from 1983?

  3. Really?
    The AIM-120D radar will be useless against another chinese or russian radar evading stealth fighters.

    The short range Aim-9X mounted externaly on racks (the F-35 do not carry Aim-9X internally) will cancel the suposed overall stealth capacity of the F-35 and will be detected by those airplanes an other non stealth fighters.
    In oher words, a totally useless expensive toy to face enemy stealth fighters un air to air combat.

    BTW, the Chinese Stealth fighter will carry IRS Missiles internally and with a very clever solution.... :(

    1. The F-35 won't carry AIM-9Xs internally? Where are you getting this misinformation? Both the AIM-120D and AIM-9X will be carried internally by the F-35. So no, they will not have to be carried on rails, and they will not increase the F-35's RCS.

      Also, your assertion that ARH missiles "don't work" against LO aircraft is strange, to say the least. An ARH goes active at a very short range from the target, where even a LO target has a trackable signature. Also, advanced ARHMs like the -120D include two-way datalinks to allow the firing aircraft to provide targeting information, even if the missile's own radar can't track the target until it is very close.

      You really should learn more about aerial combat; your comments thus far indicate that your total knowledge hovers around absolute zero.

    2. Also, I had to laugh a bit at your inclusion of the word "supposed" before you mentioned that the F-35 is LO...

  4. How are you going to direct via data link an Aim-120D very close to stealth fighter that you can not track with any tadar, and flyes at Mach 1.2 ?

    In a previous post you mention that you can not have a long fire track and lock solution just using IRST or EO sensors.

    In oher words, the F-35 will must to be very close to the other stealth fighter to lunch an AIm-120D or Aim-9X.

    The problem is that Aim-9X missiles need racks to be launched. They are not ejected like the Aim-120.

    The F-22 have retractable racks on each side of the airplane. Cool.

    F-35 don't have lateral bays, so, if they are going to instal a retractable rack will be in the bottom bays, not ideal for over the elbow locks and not that much space for other weapons.

    That's why the F-35 will use external lateral racks to launch the Aim-9X at visual range and an a big external canon under the fuselage in orther to be able to fight a real dog fight against other stealth or non stealth fighters with internal canon and more missiles outside.

    At the end you are paying a lot just for a bad version of a more capable Super Hornet...LOL

    1. To add on to what Spudman said...

      I never said IRST, radar, etc couldn't track an LO aircraft, I said that those detection methods have their range significantly decreased. In order to definitively identify and track an LO aircraft, another aircraft would have to close in to a very close range. What I said was that LO aircraft cannot be tracked at long range the way a non-LO aircraft can be, despite the claims some people make about IRST and low-frequency radar systems. Obviously, any aircraft caj be tracked at a close enough range.

      My other statement against IRST systems was the narrow field of view, an issue the F-35 corrects with the DAS, which has a 360 degree FOV.

      Again, your statement that the F-35 will not be able to carry the AIM-9X internally are baseless.

      Oh, and I guess you still haven't accepted reality when it comes to aircraft costs...

    2. Also, since we're talking about dogfights involving a VLO opponent...

      How do you think the Hornet is supposed to be superior to the F-35 in engaging a VLO target? With a Super Hornet, all you have is a non-VLO aircraft, which means it will be tracked at BVR ranges, going up against a VLO aircraft that the Hornet will be unable to track until it gets very close to it. How is that supposed to be better than a situation where an F-35 and its VLO opponent both "find" each other at the same time? Sure, the F-35 won't be able to get a track on the VLO opponent until they get close to each other, but the VLO opponent faces the same obstacle, which is sure as hell better than the VLO opponent being able to track the Hornet while the F/A-18 is still in the dark about the VLO aircraft's location.

      Methinks your beloved Hornet would end up flying right into a slew of BVR missiles in that scenario...

    3. I think a general misconception is that the F-35 needs radar to find another plane (VLO or not) at BVR ranges.

      There are several systems on the F-35 designed to detect and track targets well into the BVR rangeband.

      The first, what I would classify as tripwire & ID system, is the ESM. It would be used to sniff for any EM energy in the area and queue other sensors to the threat. Once a threat is classified the ESM plays a major part in ID'ing the threat.

      The other main non-radar BVR system that the F-35 can use is it's IRST (EOTS). It has been shown that it can easily detect & track targets out past 40nm. The EOTS working with the ESM helps to alleviate the issues of the IRST having such a small FOV when it comes to discovering targets on it's own.

    4. So there *is* information on the DAS's range? I'd been looking for that information for quite a while... I saw a video of the system identifying a ballistic missile launch, but of course a ballistic missile isn't very similar to an aircraft in terms of its thermal signature.

    5. You may be mixing up the terms EOTS, EODAS, IRST, and DAS.

      EODAS (Electro Optical Distributed Aperture System, aka DAS) is a group of 6 IIR camera situated around the F-35. They provide short ranged (think WVR or < 10 miles) tracking of all airborne objects. They can provided targeting & tracking of fighters in the area, missile launch & approach tracking, BDA, navigation (via HDD or HMD), and other functions. Since they do not move, they cover the full 360 around the F-35, at all times. The hotter the object, the further out it is detected. This system is what you were talking about that detected the ballistic missile launch.

      EOTS (or IRST) is an advanced version of the SniperXR targeting pod that has been flying for years. While no information about the EOTS has been released, the Sniper has been demonstrated to detect & track objects beyond 35nm.

  5. 1. The F-35 does not have to "keep track of the AIM-120D", it only needs to track the target.

    2. The two-way datalink of the 120D can provide the F-35 with the status of the 120D including location, heading, battery life, target tracking, etc.

    3. The F-35 will update the 120D with the target's location using either the radar, EOTS, ESM, EODAS, or offboard sensors.

    4. They are already working on a rack for internal launching of ASRAAM & 9X missiles. It would take the A2G internal station of the F-35.

    5. The USN has recently asked Raytheon (the makers of the 9X and 120D) for a long range version replacement for the Sidewinder. No details other than a planned start of testing in 2018 is known.

  6. Spydman, are you suggesting that Aesa Radars can track Stealth fighters in order to direct via data link an Aim-120? If so, any airplane with an aesa radar will be able to do the same against the F-35 and will launch a long distance missiles to it.

    But if you talk about other ways to detect stealth airplanes and direct via data link amraams or even Meteors, all the 4++ fighters can use today the same sensors you just mentioned to detect LO airplanes at the same distance ( EO, IR, ESM) to not mention the Growlers capacity.

    Even the F-16 can do it today , not just Super Hornets, Rafales or Gripens, but the Super Hornet was designed with radar absorving materials in critical points and air intakes like the raptor to reduce it's frontal RCS..

    If the F-35 wants to really remain undetected it will have to be silent, with out doing any EM emission, and with out carrying any external rack, weapons or canon as it's shown in the pictures, just using it DAS to detect other LO airplanes, but again, as I just told you, If it can track an lock stealth fighters at long distances just using IR or EO sensors, other airplanes even non stealth will be able to do the same.

    And yes, the USNavy is asking for more advanced long range Aim-9X to take full advantage of its actual and new IRST and Atflirs sensors for their Super Hornets, even with more range and precision than their aesa radars.

    1. You're still not getting it. AESA radars don't impart some sort of anti-stealth feature -- in fact, the fact that the F-35's radar is AESA is completely irrelevant to the capability Spudman was mentioning. What he was referencing is that, if the F-35 can track a target, it can use its datalink to guide the missile right up to it, even if the missile itself can't track the target or can't discriminate it from interference (chaff, jamming, repeater interference, decoys, etc). Tracking the VLO target is a prerequisite for this condition. Your idea that AESA is "anti-stealth" is false -- an AESA radar has higher resolution and a faster rescan rate than a legacy radar, which improves its ability to detect small targets (I.e. cruise missiles), but a VLO target is still VLO, and today's AESA radars cannot detect them at BVR ranges.

      Also, your assertion that emitting with its radar will give away the F-35's position is completely false, and shows that you do not know how an AESA LPI radar operates.

      Can the F-35 be detected by radar and IRST systems? Sure... if the radar or IRST carrying aircraft gets within tracking range (I.e. ten kilometers or less). The problem is that those kinds of ranges are far too short to be tactically useful -- by the time the F-35 gets that close, it can be seen with the naked eye, so the fact that you have an IRST or radar track on it is much less useful. The BVR IRST ranges Spudman pointed out were against ground targets, not aerial targets, and certainly not against an LO aircraft with extensive IR reduction, like the F-35.

      Does the Super Hornet have signature reduction? Sure. But it only has a modest RCS reduction -- it's nowhere near VLO. Also, the RCS reduction is from the front only, so the sides and rear or the aircraft is just as observable as a legacy aircraft, and it will be just as detectable as a legacy aircraft from any direction other than the front. Assuming that the Super Hornet will never face an opponent coming from any direction other than head on is a rather large assumption to make. Then, of course, there is the fact that the Super Hornet doesn't incorporate anywhere near as much IR reduction as the F-35. Basically, the Super Hornet represents first generation LO -- it incorporates some signature reduction, and is thus superior to aircraft without any signature reduction, but they are far inferior to true, all-aspect VLO aircraft.

    2. Also, your understanding of F-35 operations is rudimentary at best. The F-35 uses an AESA radar, so it can emit without there being any operationally significant probability of being detected by ESM -- it will not be limited to "just the DAS." It will carry the AMRAAM and Sidewinder internally, so it can carry both without any LO degradation. The cannon is either carried internally (F-35A) or in an LO pod (F-35B and F-35C), so the F-35 can carry it without compromising its low observability.


  8. Hello,

    Italy needs to scrap the F-35 money pit and think small, like the Fiat 500! They shall team up with their swiss neighbours and co-manufacture Gripen-E/NG airframes, rather then the swiss alone importing whole planes from Sweden. Northern Italy has a big aviation industry and could co-operate with the swiss excellently. The Gripen can also accept a single Eurojet engine from the Typhoon twinjet, instead of the usual F-404/414, which would simplify italian logistics a lot. The Sea Gripen fits the Cavour flattop carrier just right. For the price and cost of a single JSF, up to four (4) Gripens can be puchased and kept flying in the long term (~4700USD/hour). Those swedish cinderellas are not garage queens, as they rely on tiny size for low observability and shun gold-priced secret stealth paintjobs that peel off in the rain... Gripen has always been within budget and SAAB does keeps time deadlines, which attracts buyer interest a lot nowadays. Italy was a fool to return their economical, leased F-16 fleet and the best they could do now is to migrate to the Gripen for even lower supersonic costs! Today, the swedish love child of F-5 and MiG-21 provides supersonic speed at A-4 prices!

    Best Regards, Tamas Feher from Hungary.

    1. A small fighter isn't "stealth." It has a (slightly) lower RCS than a larger fighter, but it is nowhere near LO, let alone VLO.

      Modern LO coatings aren't fragile like older ones are. The F-35 has RAM baked into its composite skin, so it doesn't peel off in the rain (F-117), need to be kept in a climate controlled hanger (B-2), or have its coating constantly reapplied (F-117, B-2, and early model F-22s). In short, it's a VLO aircraft without the difficult maintenance that characterized early VLO aircraft -- it can withstand normal weather conditions and be stored in a method similar to legacy fighters without its RAM being damaged.

      As far as cheap, simple fighters... good luck in a BVR engagement, or a WVR missile engagement!

    2. Dear Alec,

      > As far as cheap, simple fighters... good luck in a BVR engagement, or a WVR missile engagement! <

      You are not paying attention to what I wrote:
      "for the price and cost of a single JSF, up to four (4) Gripens can be puchased and kept flying in the long term"

      Because of this numerical superiority, the Gripen SYSTEM will be victorious. According to the cubic law of technological warfare, the F-35 system would need to be up to 27x times more advanced (16x if we count really conservatively) in order to defeat a situation where each JSF is facing 3 extra opponents, rather than a 1:1 aerial combat.

      There is absolutely no way the JSF can be 27x or even 16x more advanced compared to the Gripen-E, not even the Gripen-C, so the numerical superiority cannot be defeated. (The Gripen-E, which will serve sooner than any JSF, also has AESA, IRST, Meteor, AIM-120 and IRIS-T missiles, superb TIALDS LPoI datalink, satcom.)

      Therefore, as long as the Gripen pilots accept that some of them need to die for the motherland's victory (*), the few invading F-35 will lose against the defending Gripens' swarm tactic. (* Note: there is no "Barbie village" clean war as desired by the "CNN generation".)

      In economic reality, the situation is somewhat different. A country that would struggle to buy and support just a single JSF squadron, could easily fly 3 Gripen squadrons instead, with ample pocket money to spare. Yet, most of those countries would fly a single Gripen squadron and decide to spend the balance on edu, socialized medicine and welfare. This way countries less self-conscious than Switzerland and Sweden will actually lose defence capability by choosing the Gripen system.

      Of course, a 1:1 clash of Gripen vs. JSF fleets is supposed to be a slaughter. Although I'm not sure if that is true. The IRIS-T imaging infrared missile is already in daily use on swedish Gripens and the german vendor Diehl states that has a unique "hard kill" anti-missile capability, which is effective against both "telegraph pole" SAMs and AMRAAM sized targets. Considering the Gripen also has helmet mounted aiming and parallex-rangefinder RWR, the AMRAAMs launched by F-35s are unlikely to hit before the Gripen has expended its supply of IRIS-T self-defence missiles. (Up to 6 can be carried on dual racks, but it costs almost a million euros per piece. One or two per plane is more realistic.)

      It also doesn't help the Gripen has the highest relative percentage of weight devoted to defensive expendables. A fully kitted Gripen carries the equivalent of about 700pcs of 1x1" canisters in anti-IR and anti-radar variety. They also have an EW pod that cuts alu strips to exact half-wave size on the spot, before launching them. The USAF really does ignore this particular field of "passive defence".

      Finally, an F-35 is unlikely to engage in short-range aerial combat, considering that Saturn-V sized heat source she carries for a powerplant. Must be like a 100 watt lightbulb to moths, that even an old AIM-9L/M can't miss. Not to mention the fearsome 27mm Mauser carried by the Gripen (which was to go into the JSF as well, but got vetoed by US lobbying.)

      Best Regards: Tamas Feher from Hungary.

    3. Typically, the reason most air forces don't devote much attention to chaff is that it has lost much of its effectiveness since the introduction of pulse-doppler radar.

      Using IRST systems to detect LO aircraft is often mentioned, but it is seldom realized that low observable aircraft include IR signature reduction. The F-35, for example, uses ceramic heat-absorbing nozzles, buried engines, cold air bypass, heat sinks, and S-shaped inlets to avoid IR detection. Also, the idea that the F-35 produces a large IR signature because of its large engine ignores the fact that jet engines aren't SRBs -- they can be throttled, and certainly don't operate at full-afterburner 40,000 lbs wet power while attempting to remain hidden. Under normal operations, the F-35 would operate with thrust levels typical of other fighters -- just because it is capable of producing 43,000 pounds of thrust doesn't mean it will do so during cruise.

      As far as numbers are concerned, that's a difficult discussion to have. The concept of the "cubic law of technological warfare" generally assumes that both aircraft are aware of each others' locations. When one aircraft cannot see the other, the whole concept tends to fall apart. Of course, what you say is generally correct, and if a country were to have to decide between having a tiny number of F-35s or a very large number of other aircraft, it may prove advantageous to have the other aircraft (whether or not it is advantageous typically depends on the exact situation). When I discuss aircraft capabilities, I generally do so from the perspective of the United States, which will be buying a large number of F-35s, so I don't necessarily consider that concept.