Electronic Weapons: August 29, 2000


Boeing is developing its Joint Strike Fighter prototype to provide for new tactics. Whenever a stealthy aircraft opens its weapons bay doors, the interior surfaces of the weapons bays are more reflective than the aircraft, causing its radar return to increase by a factor in the hundreds. Boeing's design provides for two weapons bays, which open to the side rather than down. This would allow the aircraft to turn one (stealthy) side toward an enemy radar, then open the weapons bay on the other side and launch a weapon which would pass under the fighter and attack the target. Boeing says that its weapons bays are larger than the competing design and would allow growth in future weapons. The most likely new ones are larger bombs to penetrate hard bunkers and an improved anti-radar missile to replace HARM. (Raytheon has a new anti-radar missile under development in a classified program.) The Air Force also wants a new air-to-air missile with a range (100 miles) to match the improved radar on the F-22 and JSF. The new radar has 1,000 separate elements (the one on the F-22 has twice that). Many of these could be used to jam enemy radars. This would allow a pair of JSFs to operate as a team, with one staying above and behind the other to jam enemy radar while the lead aircraft actually bombs the target. (Because the radar has only a relatively narrow forward field of view, the jamming plane would have to stay back several miles in order to cover all potential ground radar sites.) After the initial attack, the two aircraft could reverse roles. Alternatively, a "train" of JSFs could attack a target, each one covered by the jamming of the plane behind it. Another tactic would be for two JSFs to fly a racetrack pattern over friendly territory so that one is always focusing its jamming on a particular sector of enemy territory. --Stephen V Cole


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