Joint Strike Fighter officials are developing a mission data system that can immediately tell pilots if they are flying against a MiG-29 or Su-27 or any other enemy fighter.
The system will serve as a computer library or data base of known threats and friendly aircraft in specific regions of the world, said Thomas Lawhead, operations lead for the JSF integration office.
The mission data packages, now being developed by the Air Force’s 53rd Wing are designed to accommodate new information as new threat data becomes available. The data base is loaded with a wide range of information to include commercial airliner information and specifics on Russian and Chinese fighter jets.
Without the mission data files and computer-driven sensor fusion of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, fighter pilots would have to simultaneously interpret and organize input from a range of different sensors including their radar warning receiver, Lawhead explained.
“You can think of the mission data as the memory that feeds the fusion engine to identify threats. It is the data which tells the aircraft whether something is a good guy or a bad guy,” said Col. Carl Schaefer, the Air Force's top JSF integration official.
“A sensor receives input. Then, the aircraft’s fusion engine takes that input and fuses it with other input from other sensors. It then takes that information and balances it against the mission data. Based on that match it can tell you what the threat is,” he explained.
Sensors on the F-35 include the Active Electronically Scanned Array, or AESA, radar as well as a system called Distributed Aperture System, or DAS, which combines input from as many as six different electro-optical cameras on the aircraft.
The aircraft also draws upon a technology called Electro-optical Targeting System, or EOTS, which helps identify and pinpoint targets. EOTS, which does both air-to-air and air-to-ground targeting, is able to combine forward-looking infrared and infrared search and track technology.
Overall, information from all of the JSF sensors is “fused” through the aircraft’s computer, providing the pilot with clear, integrated information.
The Air Force is developing 12 different mission data files for 12 different geographic areas, Lawhead explained. The first four are slated to be ready by the time the service reaches its planned initial operating capability with the F-35A in August 2016.
“One of the ways we respond to emerging threats is through the mission data files. If we are going to a region of the world, we want to be able to understand what the threats are and make sure that all the data that we have on the bad guys of that area is fed into the mission data file,” Schaefer added.