Tuesday, November 12, 2013

F-35: the benefits of stealth and situational awareness

American Innovation has another good post up, this one discussing the benefits of stealth and situational awareness - two capabilities the F-22 and F-35 share.  While the article is mostly about the F-22, the F-35 is discussed:
The F-35 shares stealth and heightened situational awareness with the Raptor and, given all the information that has been publicly released, there is no credible reason to conclude the F-35 is incapable of preforming similar "stand-off kills" utilizing stealth and situational awareness as described by Brown. If I may be frank for a moment, while the F-35 is certainly not as maneuverable as the F-22, it still preforms favorably relative to its peers in some maneuverability performance based metrics (e.g. good subsonic acceleration, decent thrust-to weight ratio, and commendable angle of attack performance). Oftentimes the descriptions of the F-35's maneuverability characteristics made by staunch critics are more applicable to an An-225 strategic airlift cargo aircraft than the F-35.

I got a chuckle out of that and pretty heartily agree.  Go read the whole thing.



  1. Situational awareness to an F-35 pilot requires a HUD helmet that works, and the JSF helmet doesn't work.

  2. That's strange. I seem to remember reading that the jitter issues were fixed, which is why the BAE helmet was canceled and the primary helmet given the green light to continue production. It would seem like the helmet problems are old news.

    Of course, I may totally be wrong. At my s00pur seekr1t Pentagon sock-puppet job, we don't get out much, so I may have missed the latest news.

    1. Dr. Gilmore, DOT&E, testimony, Jun 2013:
      The program has also dedicated 42 flights to investigating deficiencies in the helmet mounted display system. Seven aircraft from all three variants flew test missions from October 2012 through May 2013 to investigate jitter in the helmet mounted display system, night vision camera acuity, latency in the Distributed Aperture System projection, and light leakage onto the helmet display under low-light conditions. Although some progress has been achieved, results of these tests have been mixed according to comments from the test pilots. Testing could not be completed within the full operational flight envelope evaluating mission-related tasks, as the full combat flight envelope has not been released. Filters for reducing the effects of jitter have been helpful, but have introduced instability, or “swimming,” of the projected symbology.

    2. I'll quote SpudmanWP: "relying on old news is just sad."

      Gilmore was talking about Block 1 software. The F-35 is currently operating Block 2B software. By the time it becomes fully operational, it will be operating Block 3C software, and further upgrades are planned.

      Saying that the F-35's software is ineffective because the initial Block 1 version had "mixed results", and then refusing to admit that the software has been upgraded *three times* since that early version is akin to stating that Linux version 3.12 is ineffective and unstable because version 0.99 was highly unstable.

      At the risk of seeming to go on a tangent, I'd like to posit that the development of the F-35's software will probably mirror the development of Linux -- i.e. versions 0.99 through 1.40 were virtually unworkable and extremely user hostile, but the upgraded system has to be the easiest of the big three operating systems to use -- and the least buggy.

      Anyways, back to my s00pur seekr1t Pentagon sock-puppet job! My contacts in the military are starting to drift away from the F-35 program, and I've got to make sure to send out the DefenseLucre to keep them onboard.

    3. Relying on hopes and rumors is just sad; relying upon test results is the only way to go.

    4. Nope. Using outdated results that have been long since invalidated and assuming nothing will change is just sad. The BAE helmet was canceled specifically because the original helmet had resolved the vast majority of the issues it originally faced. The software has been updated. Those aren't "hopes and rumors." They're actual results.

      All you're doing is using outdated information and assuming the current situation is the same as the situation three major upgrades ago. And *that* is just sad.

      Besides, at my s00pur seekr1t Pentagon sock puppet job, I get all the insider information on the program, and I can assure you that the issues have been resolved.

    5. According to 10 USC § 2399 the Secretary of Defense,[acting through DOT&E] shall provide that a covered major defense acquisition program or a covered designated major subprogram may not proceed beyond low-rate initial production until initial operational test and evaluation of the program or subprogram is completed.

      The term “operational test and evaluation” means—
      (i) the field test, under realistic combat conditions, of any item of (or key component of) weapons, equipment, or munitions for the purpose of determining the effectiveness and suitability of the weapons, equipment, or munitions for use in combat by typical military users; and
      (ii) the evaluation of the results of such test.

    6. ?????


      If I'm reading what you posted correctly, your response to my statement that your information was outdated was to copy and paste a paragraph outlining the procedure for a defense program to proceed past the LRIP phase of development.

      That has to be the ultimate non sequitur...

    7. Your point?

      The F-35 is still in LRIP, and will be so for several more years.

      I don't slight Gilmore on his report as he is going with what he has, ie Block 1 software and early HMDS. Our problem with you is that you stop looking for info when you hit his report and completely ignore any news post Block 1.

    8. My point is that one shouldn't talk about the benefits of a system based only on a sales brochure for a program that is way over schedule and cost, and way short of adequate performance and reliability. The Pentagon is giving LM $1.8 billion for development because what they've accomplished isn't nearly sufficient.

      There has been no impartial evidence, post-Gilmore saying the helmet doesn't work, that the helmet works. Therefore we must conclude that it doesn't work. (duh)

    9. His testing is all about Block 1, how hard is that to understand? There have been several articles talking about improved maintenance and reduced lifetime costs due to better than expected performance.

      Sure there is post-Gilmore evidence.. the BAE alternate helmet contract was cancelled and pilots who have used it say it's not a real issue.

    10. "Sure there is post-Gilmore evidence."

      Wonderful -- let's see it. Otherwise, you're blowing smoke.

  3. Just a few that I came up with quickly.....

    1. BAE 2nd HMDS dev is cancelled
    "Pentagon's F-35 program office said the move followed improvements to the Rockwell-Elbit helmet, including a better night vision camera, and would save about $45 million in funding that would have been needed to finish the BAE helmet."

    2. Night Vision Acuity
    "Lockheed Martin, Vision Systems International and the F-35 Joint Program Office (JPO) are making progress with solving night vision acuity problems on the F-35's helmet-mounted display, says a senior test pilot assigned to the programme.

    Test pilots recently tested a modified second-generation helmet fitted with a new 1600x1200 resolution ISIE-11 night vision camera coupled with a new display management computer/helmet, says Lt Col Matt Kelly, an F-35 test pilot assigned to the JPO.

    Kelly says the ISIE-11 immensely improves the helmet's night vision capabilities. "

    Another Quote
    "The VSI helmet now in use—the Gen 2 helmet—incorporates an ICIE-10 night-vision camera, which was creating problems with the acuity of imagery projected onto the helmet at night. Flight-testing of the solution, the so-called ICIE-11 camera, and improved image-processing software in the helmet, took place in a Cessna last month. “The testing proved successful, with pilots reporting a substantial improvement in camera capability over the existing ISIE-10 night camera in the Gen 2 helmet,” said Kyra Hawn, a spokeswoman for the F-35 Joint Program Office."

    3. Multiple issues improving
    "The HMDS is a major technological advance for pilot situational awareness but it has presented design challenges. HMDS issues faced by the program over the past year were “green glow,” or insufficient helmet display contrast; latency of the displayed information;, “jitter,” or lack of stability of the displayed symbology as the aircraft maneuvers; night vision acuity; and alignment of the displayed symbology.

    Last year the program made significant progress against these challenges using dedicated HMDS flight testing to identify and analyze acceptable HMDS performance. As a result of testing, the program has successfully mitigated the effects of four of these HDMS issues. More work is planned this summer to ensure that the night vision camera is effective for Marine Corps operations. "

  4. Active electronic warfare and stealth, total situational awareness, double crew for the management of the air sea battle (Ground) war, uclass for deep stryke, etc is what the US Navy is getting already with out any F-35C operational yet.
    I wonder why the F22 didn't see the Growler and how it detect it radar to successfully make a kill with a radar guided missile in that exercise. I think the USNavy will never reveal the true capacities of the 500+ Growlers and Super Hornets and probably the advanced Super Hornets in the near future.





    1. You tout electronic warfare like it's the Konami cheat code of combat. Sometimes, electronic warfare works. Sometimes, the radar will not be able to be jammed. Sometimes, the mission will not be able to be completed without getting too close to the emitter for electronic warfare to be used (if you get too close, your radar return will "burn through" the jamming signal, rendering it ineffective).

      Sometimes, your electronic warfare signal will tell the enemy exactly where you are, and serve as an excelent way for him to track you and guide a weapon (i.e. a HARM) against you. Jamming isn't always perfect, nor is it without danger.

      The problem with using DACT engagements to evaluate the usefulness of an aircraft is that it's an absolute crap method of determining combat effectiveness. It's very common for F-22s participating in exercises to use radar reflectors and carry drop tanks to reduce their aerodynamic performance and VLO characteristics. On the other hand, the other aircraft often minimize their RCS and maximize their maneuverability by flying completely clean (i.e. not in a combat configuration).

      Because of these factors, saying "Plane XX shot down Plane YY in an exercise, therefore Plane XX is superior" is absolutely idiotic. Exercises are tailored to provide a specific outcomes and create specific training experiences.

      Also, you are focusing on one single event and declaring it to be the norm. The method used to determine an aircraft's effectiveness in aerial combat is its exchange ratio. You can't simply say "Plane XX shot down Plane YY in this specific incident, therefore it is better", and ignore all the instances where Plane YY shot down Plane XX. On January 17, 1991, an American F/A-18 Hornet participating in Operation Desert Storm was shot down by a MiG-25, but only a fool would use that instance to declare the MiG-25 superior to the F/A-18, because anyone with any clue what they were talking about would realize that, on average, the F/A-18 would be much more likely to shoot down a MiG-25 than the MiG-25 is to shoot down the F/A-18 -- and thus, the F/A-18 is superior to the MiG-25. Of course, you have chosen not to use that logic.

      The Growler is inferior to the Raptor in basically every category. It is less maneuverable and has a dramatically higher RCS, just to name the most apparent traits.

      In addition, UCLASS would not be able to complete the tasks the F-35 can. It cannot provide air superiority, and it cannot be relied upon to strike any targets that are not completely immobile and have not been clearly identified -- the fact that there is no human in the cockpit to make decisions ensures that that is the case. On deep strike, (some) ISR, and air superiority missions, a human pilot is required. Yes, the UCLASS could be very capable at performing some tasks (that is, so long as the Navy doesn't gimp it by loosening the RCS requirement), such as strike/ISR missions in uncontested skies (where communications links may be maintained), and certain limited strike/ISR missions in contested skies, but many of the missions the Navy may need to carry out require a human pilot.

      Finally, your assertion that the Growler has F-35 level situational awareness is utterly false. The Growler does not have the ability to combine the feedback from six sensors and an entire datalink network into a single display, manage sensors automatically to provide the pilot with the best information from each sensor, and chose the most accurate information from a variety of on-board and off-board sensors to provide the most accurate picture possible. The F-35 does.

  5. What makes the difference with the F-15/16 of the red flag exercises against the Raptors, is the ALQ-218 system of the Growlers. If the the F-22 use it's radar to track and launch its guided missiles, then the Growler can locate the Raptors and send it back an amraam. The same for the F-35. If the F-35 uses the electro optical / IR sensors, then the Growler/Super Hornet can use its atflirpod sensor as well, and a new improved version is coming. The main advantage of the F-35 is the 360° coverage, but nobody goes a alone to war and a formation of Super Hornets/growlers can scan electronically and visually a wide area and share the information securely having the same level of situational awareness


    1. The Growler may be able to use an IR sensor, but the F-35 has 360 degree coverage, instead of just the soda-straw beam of coverage that IRST/FLIR normally has. Of course, the Growlers could use networking to combine their FLIR sensors. At that point, they'd have a *few* soda-straw beams of coverage, instead of just one. Forgive me, but I'm pretty sure 360 degrees of coverage is just a little bit better than a couple of soda-straw beams.

      Also, there's a problem with your idea of multiple Growlers networking: legacy aircraft don't network well. Unlike the F-35, where data from the MADL network is fused with ownship data and displayed directly on the tactical display, in the F/A-18E/F/G, the information is displayed on another display, and has to be correlated with the information the Hornet driver is getting from his own aircraft's sensors. The pilot must switch between paying attention to one sensor and paying attention to another, and he must check to see if the target being displayed on his datalink screen is the same target he is seeing on his radar/IR screen, or a different one. The F-35 pilot has one display with one set of targets -- the data fusion engine does all the correlation work, not the pilot. This is just another example of how much better the F-35's situational awareness is over legacy aircraft.

      As for your assertion that the F-22/F-35's radar emissions can be tracked with the ALQ-218:


      Also, electronic support measures (i.e. the ALQ-218) don't give particularly accurate information -- the Growler pilot would not be able to geolocate another aircraft with it. Typically, ESMs give the pilot a general idea of where the aircraft is, i.e. they tell it what sector it is in. One of the reasons the F-35's EW system has been receiving a lot of attention is that it is the first system capable of locating the azimuth of the emitter accurately enough to enable geolocation. Legacy aircraft do not have that ability.

  6. Once the Alq-218 detect the region where the emisions come, the Growler can turn and direct it's Aesa Radar to that region to receive pasively those electromagnetic signals applying the same Aesa technology to listen and detect the exact position of the emiter.
    If you fussion that data with the Atflir or Sniper pod, is even more accurate. That's why the Growlers can kill the Raptors with Amraams.

    Today not only the Growlers can do it now, even the F-16 with advanced sensors, but the Growler has a better electromagnetic warfare suit than the F-16 the Raptors or the F-35.


    1. And the Growler is supposed to detect an AESA radar's emissions how? You don't seem to have read the link I sent you. Here's a hint: look under the section labeled "low probability of intercept," then get back to me. I refuse to outline my argument over and over again because you're too dense to skim an article and learn the basic operational characteristics of the radar system you keep rambling on about.

      Also, those FLIR sensors aren't exactly going to have an easy time finding a F-22 or F-35, considering that both aircraft utilize extensive thermal management techniques and FLIR sensors have a ridiculously small field of view when viewing anything that isn't WVR.

      Furthermore, you fail to realize that the F\A-18 doesn't have the kind of data fusion capabilities you claim it does. The F-35 can correlate information from multiple on- and off-board sensors into a single display and automatically slew other sensors to refine target information. The Hornet cannot.

      Now please, comtinue to amaze us with the fictitious capabilities of your advanced F\A-18Z Block 160 4.975+++++++ generation Super-Duper Ultra Mega Advanced Hornet.

  7. Sorry, maybe the Growler/Rhino was to much.

    Waht about the small and hart to detect Gripen NG? The Swedish are following a similar path as the USNavy to deal with Stealth and Semi-Stealth threats, managing the electromagnetic spectrum pasively with their future Asesa Radar and sensors.

    Saab is currently developing a new generation fighter radar, introducing a GaN AESA antenna, a multichannel architecture and highly increased processing performance. This enables significant performance enhancements compared to radars of today. A motivator for the development is the expected arrival of low-observable (stealth or semi-stealth) aircraft with highly capable electronic self-defence in the operational context of a near future.


    To meet the requirements of the next generation JAS 39 NG and C/D upgrades, Saab has unveiled its concept of “Wide Spectrum Combat” (WISCOM) which offers total system solution.

    Having superior systems in your fighter is good but not enough. It is also very important to use these systems in the right way i.e. employing the right tactics. When systems become more complex, the possibilities to do something really smart increase – just like in chess. On the other hand, the chances of making mistakes also increase – again like in chess. For this reason it is of utmost importance to develop your Concept of Operations (CONOPS) in parallel with the systems. Systems and CONOPS must work together, just like the do in the very successful Gripen program.


    When facing an advanced adversary in a future air-to-air scenario, chances are high that it would become a fight for information in different frequencies of the electromagnetic spectrum. In this situation it is important to understand that sensors and communication systems work in the same arena. They are two sides of the same coin and, if not used with care, can be exploited by the enemy. Within the Wide Spectrum Combat concept of GripenNG this is recognized, and all electromagnetic emissions are looked upon as a whole, as parts of the same game.

    In practice, this means that the group of Gripen aircraft enter the combat area silently in a randomly spread out swarm. No active emissions are used but all sensors listen passively, including IRST, EW sensors, and the highly advanced AESA radar antenna. This can be complemented with short and random active emissions from the AESA radar. Any data on enemy aircraft is shared with beamed data links, thus enabling long range Meteor missile launches from Gripens with the most geometrically suitable positions within the swarm.





  8. http://www.aviationweek.com/Article.aspx?id=/article-xml/AW_11_25_2013_p41-638956.xml