Stealth on Steroids: How the B-2 Bomber and F-35 Will Get Even Deadlier

April 23, 2019 Topic: Security Blog Brand: The Buzz Tags: F-35MilitaryTechnologyWorldB-2Stealth

Stealth on Steroids: How the B-2 Bomber and F-35 Will Get Even Deadlier

Thanks to AI. 

Additional computer-based B-2 upgrades include the now-in-development Defensive Management System, an emerging sensor system engineered to identify the location of enemy air defenses. This system, called DMS, uses computer empowered sensor technology to inform B-2 crews about where air defenses are. This not only increases mission efficiency and safety but also helps ensure that B-2 stealth bomber missions remain effective and relevant for years to come.​

The Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments (CSBA) released a study suggesting the USAF spends more than it should in order to ensure American remains ‘king of the skies.’ It was also suggested that the B-1 Lancer be retired. Once again I feel that I must differ with a group of well-funded subject matter experts - the USAF may not need the Lancer to perform its current mission set; but the USN certainly could use this asset in a sea control mission - especially against the PLAN which is becoming much more assertive especially in the waters inside the first island chain.

Currently, each Lancer can carry twenty-four long-range stealthy anti-ship cruise missiles which can be fired from stand-off locations - locations that can be reached quickly given the Lancer's speed. Operating from dispersed hardened locations across the first and second island chains, the Lancer fleet can hold any ship in the PLAN fleet at risk in hours rather than days. It should be noted that both Russia and the PRC have long range 'ex-bomber' aircraft with long-range anti-ship cruise missiles specifically to deny the USN the capability to employ its carrier fleet.

A secondary mission would be to use the Lancer fleet to each deliver twenty four 2,000 pound precision guided sea mines* to quickly close strategic choke point exists that the PLAN might try to use to escape from its bases inside the first island chain into the Indo-Pacific for offensive operations against the USA and/or its allies. At somewhat more risk, sea mines might be sowed to close down PRC ports to both its naval operations and to its commercial traffic.

Just the credible threat that all waters claimed by the PRC may be mined would likely spike commercial insurance rates on all ships and cargos transiting either to or from the PRC - and no foreign-owned ship is likely to risk damage or destruction to their commercial assets. Such a mining operation will likely quickly shut down the PRC economy - and mines need not even be laid. A submarine torpedoing a naval or commercial ship in waters that have been declared subject to mining would likely be enough to disrupt virtually all commercial traffic. *This 2,000-lb bomb is the Quickstrike-J, which has the JDAM guidance kit attached, a magnetic/seismic sensor fuse, and is commonly called the Skipjack. They mirror the dimensions and weight of their JDAM siblings and have been dropped from the B-1 already.

 

The F-35, for instance, uses early iterations of artificial intelligence to help acquire, organize and present information to the pilot on a single screen without much human intervention. Often referred to as easing the cognitive burden upon pilots, the effort is geared toward systematically presenting information from a range of disparate sensors on a single screen. The F-35s widely-discussed sensor fusion, for example, is evidence of this phenomenon, as it involves consolidating targeting, navigation and sensor information for pilots.

An F-35 computer system, Autonomic Logistics Information System, involves early applications of artificial intelligence wherein computers make assessments, go through checklists, organize information and make some decisions by themselves - without needing human intervention.

 

The computer, called ALIS, makes the aircraft's logistics tail more automated and is able to radio back information about engine health or other avionics.

A single, secure information environment provides users with up-to-date information on any of these areas using web-enabled applications on a distributed network, a statement from ALIS- builder Lockheed Martin says.

ALIS serves as the information infrastructure for the F-35, transmitting aircraft health and maintenance action information to the appropriate users on a globally-distributed network to technicians worldwide, the statement continues.

In the near future, F-35 pilots will be able to leverage AI to control a small group of drones flying nearby from the aircraft cockpit in the air, performing sensing, reconnaissance and targeting functions.

At the moment, the flight path, sensor payload and weapons disposal of airborne drones such as Air Force Predators and Reapers are coordinated from ground control stations.

For instance, real-time video feeds from the electro-optical/infrared sensors on board an Air Force Predator, Reaper or Global Hawk drone could go directly into an F-35 cockpit, without needing to go to a ground control station. This could speed up targeting and tactical input from drones on reconnaissance missions in the vicinity of where a fighter pilot might want to attack. In fast-moving combat circumstances involving both air-to-air and air-to-ground threats, increased speed could make a large difference.

The prospect of using advanced algorithms and on-board computers to quickly perform a range of aircraft functions, while enabling human decision makers in a role of command and control, is further explored in a research paper from a London-based think tank called “Chatam House- Royal Institute of International Affairs.”

The 2017 essay, titled “Artificial Intelligence and the Future of Warfare,” explains how fighter and bomber pilot “checklists” can be enabled by AI as “cognitive-aiding tools.”

“Pilots rely significantly on procedures to help them manage the complexity of various tasks. For instance, when a fire-light illuminates or another subsystem indicates a problem, pilots are trained to first stabilize the aircraft (a skill) but then turn to the manual to determine the correct procedure (rule following). Such codified procedures are necessary since there are far too many solutions to possible problems to be remembered,” the Chatam House paper writes.

The Air Force’s stealthy B-2 bomber is yet another example; the aircraft is receiving a new flight management control processor which increases the performance of the avionics and on-board computer systems by about 1,000-times, Air Force officials said.

The upgrade is a quantum improvement over the legacy system, providing over a thousand times the processor throughput, memory, and network speed, according to senior Air Force leaders. The new processor will help automated navigation programs and expedite the B-2s “fly-by-wire” technology – all of which are designed to enable a pilot to expend energy upon the most pressing combat tasks with less intervention.

The B-2 Flight Management Control Processor Upgrade, also known as the Extremely High Frequency, Increment 1 processor upgrade, completed the final aircraft install in August 2016, Air Force officials told Warrior Maven last year.

Faster, more capable processors will enable the aircraft’s avionics, radar, sensors and communications technologies to better identify and attack enemy targets. The sensor-to-shooter time will be greatly reduced, allowing the B-2 to launch weapons much more effectively, therefore reducing its exposure to enemy attacks.

Although built in the 1980s, the B-2 is a digital airplane which uses what’s called a “glass cockpit” for flight controls and on-board systems.

The upgrade involves the re-hosting of the flight management control processors, the brains of the airplane, onto much more capable integrated processing units. This results in the laying-in of some new fiber optic cable as opposed to the mix bus cable being used right now – because the B-2’s computers from the 80s are getting maxed out and overloaded with data, Air Force officials told Warrior.

Additional computer-based B-2 upgrades include the now-in-development Defensive Management System, an emerging sensor system engineered to identify the location of enemy air defenses. This system, called DMS, uses computer empowered sensor technology to inform B-2 crews about where air defenses are. This not only increases mission efficiency and safety but also helps ensure that B-2 stealth bomber missions remain effective and relevant for years to come.​

Osborn previously served at the Pentagon as a Highly Qualified Expert with the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army - Acquisition, Logistics & Technology. Osborn has also worked as an anchor and on-air military specialist at national TV networks. He has a Masters in Comparative Literature from Columbia University.

This first appeared in Warrior Maven here