F-35 SAM Killing Mission May Have to Wait For New Jamming Technology

The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter is intended to replace the F-16 and A-10 as the military’s primary tactical strike aircraft; its stealth will allow it to penetrate advanced enemy air defenses or at least get close enough before it’s detected to knock them out.

The Air Force says the fifth generation aircraft was designed from the bottom-up to be the air arm’s premier surface-to-air missile killer. Yet, it may be many years before the F-35 is equipped with an electronics warfare suite which allows it to penetrate the thickest SAM belts, according to AvWeek’s David Fulghum.

The advanced Russian built S-300 SAM family is slowly making its way out into the world (so far, the system’s high cost has hurt sales). The “antidote” for the S-300’s long range, high-altitude sensors and missiles is the Next Generation Jammer (NGJ), Fulghum says, a program currently run by the Navy. Problem is, the NGJ won’t be fielded until 2018 at the earliest; industry is slated to present its latest and greatest in radar jamming to the program office sometime next year.

Network intrusion, hacking or spoofing an air-defense network, all the rage in air-defense defeat these days, will not be part of NGJ’s initial iteration; nor electronic circuit frying high-power microwave pulses. At least to begin with, it appears, NGJ will focus on brute-force jamming.

-- Greg Grant

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