Wednesday, September 4, 2013

F-35 promises situational awareness advantage

While reading an article about the F-35 amusingly entitled "Test-flying next fighter a glamour job for nerds", I came across this succinct description of another reason why the F-35 is superior to 4th gen fighters:
The pilots say the F-35 will be ready for battle and its pilots well-trained. “It’s probably the easiest aircraft ever flown,’’ Gigliotti said.

Unlike its predecessors, the F-35 is equipped with battlefield data, via integrated sensors and fused missions systems, that can predict an enemy’s next move, the pilots said.

The aircraft’s sensors amplify the user’s “situation awareness,’’ a military theory that dates back to Sun Tzu’s “The Art of War.”

“SA” is also described as the “ace factor” — an observation skill that enables a pilot to anticipate an enemy’s next move a fraction of a second before the enemy can observe or anticipate the pilot’s own move.

“To the pilot, it’s intuitive,” Norman said. “It’s a visual environment ... and the pilot gets all the information they need.”

A special helmet for F-35 pilots displays flight data.

“We don’t have to look down at a dashboard anymore,’’ Bachmann said. “That information is represented on the heads-up display that we have. ... We can see the information in front of us, and we can see it at night, and night looks like day.

“We have cameras and sensors around the plane that can see.” 
Enhanced situational awareness is absolutely critical to success in air combat or any of the other missions the JSF will be carrying out.  Period.  

If a pilot has superior situational awareness his decision loop is much quicker than other pilots who don't have that advantage.  One of the things the F-35 does is fuse the sensor data for the pilot.  In a 4th gen fighter that fusion takes place in the pilot's brain as he monitors all of his systems and puts that intel together in order to make decisions.  Meanwhile the F-35 pilot has already made his based on the fused data presented in the F-35 and acted upon it.  Add the fact that the F-35 pilot also has high speed access to data from other F-35s and systems and it becomes clear which aircraft will enjoy the advantage of enhanced situational awareness and which won't.


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