The U.S. Air Force is hoping to integrate a new, advanced chaff countermeasure onto its F-35A Joint Strike Fighters next year, according to a report. The cartridges, which release radar reflective material to blind and confuse enemy aircraft and air defenses, are a staple across many of the service's other combat aircraft, but have been curiously absent from the stealthy F-35's otherwise extensive defensive suite.
Aviation Week's Defense Editor Steve Trimble was first to spot the detail on Sept. 9, 2019. The Air Force included the information about the new chaff cartridge, known presently as the ARM-210, in a draft environmental impact statement, dated August 2019, regarding the basing of F-35s at various Air National Guard facilities. The report includes a host of information on how the aircraft might impact their surrounding environments, including the potential release of countermeasures, such as infrared decoy flares and chaff.
"The ARM-210 chaff proposed for use by the F-35A is currently unavailable and undergoing operational testing," according to the environmental review. "It is expected to be available for use in 2020."
It is unclear whether this applies to the U.S. Marine Corps F-35B or U.S. Navy F-35C variants, as well, or any of the three variants in service with foreign air forces. The F-35's use or potential use of chaff has long been something of a debate, in general. Recent U.S. military budget documents and other sources make no mention of it among the aircraft's expendable countermeasures – flares and towed decoys – which had suggested that it was, indeed, a capability the Joint Strike Fighter lacked and might not necessarily have needed given its stealthy design. (end of excerpt)
Click here for the full story, on the War Zone website.
(EDITOR’S NOTE: Contrary to what is stated above, there is nothing ‘curious’ about the fact that the F-35 was designed without chaff or IR flare launchers.
Since its stealthy design was claimed to make the F-35 invisible to radar, there was clearly no need for active countermeasures like chaff to protect it from radar. This same reasoning explains why no other US Air Force ‘stealth’ aircraft, from the F-117 to the F-22 and B-2, are not fitted with any.
By the same logic, the fact that chaff is now planned to be retrofitted to the F-35A merely confirms that, a quarter-century since it was designed, ‘stealth’ is no longer a sufficient guarantee of the F-35A’s survival in combat – if it ever was.
And this clearly poses a major problem, since ‘stealth’ is the promise that justified the aircraft’s many design limitations in terms of speed, range and weapon payload.
If ‘stealth’ is no longer the combat asset its manufacturer has long claimed to justify these limitations, the F-35A becomes just another aircraft with mediocre performance – but with a high sticker price and huge operating costs.)