Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Yes. The F-35's electronics are hopelessly outdated.

Close Air Support.  The reason for being for Marine Air.  Probably the biggest failing of the F-35!  I hate to keep beating on this drum but apparently people forget.  As you probably know Gripen just rolled out the E version of the airplane.  I made the comment to a couple of readers that the Gripen is more advanced than the F-35 electronically and that unless the planes stealth works as advertised it would be swept from the sky.

They didn't believe me.

Fair enough.  But how about a little proof?  Check this out from The Daily Beast (Dec 2014)...
The problem stems from the fact that the technology found on one of the stealth fighter’s primary air-to-ground sensors—its nose-mounted Electro-Optical Targeting System (EOTS)—is more than a decade old and hopelessly obsolete. The EOTS, which is similar in concept to a large high-resolution infrared and television camera, is used to visually identify and monitor ground targets. The system can also mark targets for laser-guided bombs.

“EOTS is a big step backwards. The technology is 10-plus years old, hasn’t been able to take advantage of all the pod upgrades in the meantime, and there were some performance tradeoffs to accommodate space and stealth,” said another Air Force official familiar with the F-35 program. “I think it’s one area where the guys are going to be disappointed in the avionics.”
But wait, how about a bit more...
When the Pentagon had initially drawn up the Joint Strike Fighter program’s specifications during the later half of the 1990s, the EOTS would have been bleeding-edge technology. However, in the 14 years that have passed since the Pentagon awarded Lockheed the contract to develop the F-35, technology has evolved—and the services have gained experience from over a decade of war.

“It was an awesome system when the F-35 specs were drawn-up in the late ’90s—LANTIRN [targeting pod] was the most advanced pod at that time,” said the first Air Force official affiliated with the F-35 program. “But we’re now a couple of generations beyond that spec with the targeting pods. EOTS is about a [1990s-era Northrop Grumman AN/AAQ-28(V)] LITENING II-equivalent targeting pod.”

That means that the EOTS camera does not have the range or high-resolution capability that would be found on the current targeting pods carried by American fighters flying over Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan. It also means that future F-35 pilots won’t be able to see their quarry in the same kind of detail that they can on current U.S. jets.
This is why I go high and to the right when the Deputy Commandant for Aviation talks about the F-35 delivering game changing close air support!  Additionally you have to ask the logical question.

If the F-35's EOTS is outdated then what about its AESA, DAS etc...?  The world hasn't stood still since the plane started development in 2001.  Quite honestly we should already be on F-35E/F and G by now...if the program had stuck to plan!

The dogged determination to stay the course with the F-35 has caused the US to basically skip two generations of airplanes because it didn't know when to say when with the F-35.  Worse, we allowed plausible and affordable upgrades to legacy airplanes to whither on the vine instead of going forward because leadership wanted to protect the program (Advanced Super Hornet, Silent Eagle and F-16 Block 80 should be standard models while we worked on the F-35 replacement that would have been ready by 2025 IF we had bailed in 2010).

So yeah.  The F-35's electronics are obsolete. 

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