F-35 Excels At Destroying Targets—If They Don’t Move (excerpt)
(Source: Aviation Week; published Feb 21, 2017)
By James Drew and Lara Seligman
Despite being among the most technologically advanced low-observable warplanes on the planet, the Lockheed Martin F-35 has one significant shortcoming. The Joint Strike Fighter cannot strike moving ground targets using the target system and weapons loadout delivered in Block 3F, the final combat Lightning II configuration of the 17-year system development and demonstration phase. (Emphasis added—Ed.)

The challenge is the F-35 is currently unable to lead a target with its laser designator to compensate for movement. This means the aircraft is limited to striking fixed or slow-moving objects such as the surface-to-air missiles it has proven so skilled at destroying in Red Flag exercises.

As the close air support fighter of the future and replacement for the 20th-century A-10, F-16, F/A-18 and AV-8B, this issue has prompted the services to try to move forward integration of the 500-lb. dual-mode Laser/GPS/IMU Raytheon GBU-49 Lot 5 Enhanced Paveway II (EP-2) guidance assembly. EP-2 has built-in proportional navigation software that automatically calculates and compensates for target direction and speed; its inertial measurement unit adjusts the flightpath for wind conditions.

The F-35 has already entered service with the U.S. Marine Corps (F-35B Block 2B) and Air Force (F-35A Block 3i), equipped with the laser-guided 500-lb. Raytheon/Lockheed GBU-12 Paveway II and GPS/IMU-guided 2,000- and 1,000-lb. Boeing GBU-31/32 Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM). Block 3F will add the 1,000-lb. Raytheon AGM-154 Joint Standoff Weapon (F-35C), 250-lb. Boeing GBU-39 Small-Diameter Bomb Increment 1 (F-35A), and the United Kingdom’s 500-lb. Raytheon UK Paveway IV (F-35B). (end of excerpt)


Click here for the full story, on the Aviation Week website.

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F-35C Needs New Outer Wings to Carry AIM-9X (excerpt)
(Source: Aviation Week; published Feb 17, 2017)
By James Drew and Lara Seligman |
The head of the F-35 Joint Program Office (JPO) says the outer wings of 32 carrier-based C-models need to be replaced to carry the Raytheon AIM-9X Sidewinder, the aircraft’s primary dogfighting weapon.

The U.S. Navy variant experienced an undisclosed amount of oscillation or turbulence during flight trials with the AIM-9X in December 2015, and Lt. Gen. Christopher Bogdan says aircraft already delivered need to be retrofitted with strengthened wings.

“It was discovered the outer, folding portion of the wing has inadequate structural strength to support the loads induced by pylons with AIM-9X missiles during maneuvers that cause buffet,” Bogdan says in written testimony to Congress on Feb. 16.

Engineers have already produced an enhanced outer wing design, which is now undergoing flight testing. The issue has impacted the timeline for fielding AIM-9X, which is being rolled out for the Navy in Block 3F. “Once the new design is verified to provide the require strength, the fix will be implemented in production and retrofitted to existing aircraft by swapping existing outer wings with the redesigned ones,” Bogdan writes.

The AIM-9X is the heat-seeking sidekick to the Raytheon AIM-120C advanced medium-range air-to-air missile. Without it, the F-35 would be incapable of high off-boresight shots at close range.

Because of a seven-year schedule delay, the fifth-generation fighter will carry air superiority missiles that are one generation behind its legacy counterparts, which are already carrying the newest AIM-9X Block II and AIM-120D. (end of excerpt)


Click here for the full story, on the Aviation Week website.

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