F-35's Could Someday Help Kill North Korea's Nuclear Missiles

January 5, 2018 Topic: Security Region: Asia Blog Brand: The Buzz Tags: North KoreaMissilesICBMF-35war

F-35's Could Someday Help Kill North Korea's Nuclear Missiles

Should Kim be worried? 

Described as multi-function array technology, the DAS system uses automated computer algorithms to organize and integrate target-relevant data from missile warning systems, radar, night vision and other long-range sensors; the array is able to track a BMD target from the air at distances up to 800 nautical miles. Such a technology, quite naturally, enables a wider sensor field with which to identify and track attacking missiles.

The F-35’s Distributed Aperture Sensor (DAS) has performed airborne identification and target tracking of a ballistic missile in a test off the coast of Hawaii as part of ongoing development of the 5th-generation aircraft’s ability to conduct airborne ballistic missile defense missions.

Northrop Grumman and the Pentagon’s Missile Defense Agency conducted a demonstration, using a ground-based DAS and a DAS-configured gateway aerial node to locate a ballistic missile launch and flight path. Target tracking information was sent using advanced data links to relay information between the aerial gateway and ground-based command and control locations.

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According to Northrop engineers and weapons developers involved with the test, a sensor on the ground transmitted its tracking information to the DAS-equipped Airborne Gateway, which formed a three-dimensional space track which could be transmitted to San Diego.

“DAS can perform its mission whether airborne in an F-35 or other aircraft, as well as on the ground or in a ship. In this case, the two DAS sensors in the air and on the ground, respectively, were able to individually recognize the ballistic missile event and generate a two-dimensional track,” Northrop experts told Warrior.

Described as multi-function array technology, the DAS system uses automated computer algorithms to organize and integrate target-relevant data from missile warning systems, radar, night vision and other long-range sensors; the array is able to track a BMD target from the air at distances up to 800 nautical miles. Such a technology, quite naturally, enables a wider sensor field with which to identify and track attacking missiles.

“DAS communicated precise BMD data from Pacific Missile Range in Hawaii to a test-bed location in San Diego. Seconds after launch, the DAS sensor categorized the rocket and located a ballistic missile launch,” said John “Bama” Montgomery, 5th Generation Derivatives and Improvements, Northrop Grumman. “This re-organizes, re-imagines and re-shapes the battlespace.”

Although the test was in 2014, it has only now been determined that the F-35 can perform BMD - due to years of analysis and test data examination, Northrop developers said. Such a defensive technical ability is of great relevance currently, as many express concern about North Korea short and medium range ballistic missile threats.

An airborne DAS, networked with ground-based Patriot and THAAD (Terminal High Altitude Area Defense) weapons, could offer a distinct tactical advantage when it comes to quickly locating incoming missile threats. Air sensors in particular, could be of great value given that, in some envisioned threat scenarios, it is unclear whether there would be enough interceptors to counter a massive North Korean ballistic missile barrage into South Korea. Accordingly, air based detection and target tracking, it seems, could go a long way toward better fortifying defenses - as they might increase the time envelope during which command and control could cue interceptors to locate and destroy attacking enemy missiles.

Using early applications of artificial intelligence, computers and aircraft relied upon advanced algorithms to organize sensor information - which was then transmitted to a pilot.

As a key element of the F-35s much-discussed “sensor fusion technology,” the DAS draws upon a 360-degree sensor field of view generated by six cameras strategically placed around the aircraft. The sensor autonomously fuses data from all of the sensors into a single field of view for the pilot.

“With an automated picture, we can get the pilot everything he needs without him needing to go through every step,” Bama said.

Using F-35 DAS sensor technology, emerging technology can perform BMD sensing functions without needing to rely purely upon space-based infrared systems. Using LINK 16 and other data-link technologies, an F-35 can relay targeting data to other 5th and 4th-Generation aircraft as well as ground stations. Montgomery explained that MDA laboratory-generated detection, tracking and discrimination algorithms were able to provide 3-D tracking information.

An MDA statement said program officials have been evaluating system performance based upon telemetry and other data obtained during the test.

As part of this emerging technical configuration, it has been determined that the F-35s DAS can perform a wide range of non-traditional ISR functions to include not only BMD but other kinds of air or ground-fired enemy weapons. This includes an ability to detect artillery fire, enemy fighter aircraft, incoming air-launched missiles and, of course, ground launched rockets and missiles.