F-35A,B&C FAC(A) Mission

Variants for different customers or mission profiles
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wolfpak

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Unread post21 Nov 2017, 00:16

Will the F-35 units pick up the FAC(A) mission in the future? I can see in the not too distant future USAF F-35 units being deployed in the standard AEF rotation. Many of the current F-16 units have FAC(A) qualified crews that undertake that role. Just saw today on MSNBC's website a F-16C with a TER with a LAU-131 7 round rocket pod under one wing and a BRU-57 with two GBU-54's under the other. The A-10 routinely carries the SUU-25A/ (for flares) and the F-18D carries the Zuni rocket pod. Looking at the charts it doesn't look like the F-35 will have the capability to use these weapons for target marking and such. So what happens?
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Dragon029

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Unread post21 Nov 2017, 00:26

CAS with the F-35 will just primarily be done with weapons like the SDB and GBU-12 / GBU-49.

Edit: But more to the point; I don't think getting low and using smoke rockets, etc are going to be terribly important for the F-35 in the FAC(A) role - the pilot will have decent SA regardless with HMDS, DAS and the EOTS. Getting positional feedback from the guys on the ground will be more difficult (the laser pointer upgrade should help with that a little), but it's my understanding that things like the Target Handoff System (a tablet for FACs that can send VMF messages) will help quite a bit.

Edit 2: Also don't forget that ROVER support is coming in Block 4 (apparently 4.1) as well.
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steve2267

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Unread post21 Nov 2017, 00:50

wolfpak wrote:Will the F-35 units pick up the FAC(A) mission in the future? I can see in the not too distant future USAF F-35 units being deployed in the standard AEF rotation. Many of the current F-16 units have FAC(A) qualified crews that undertake that role. Just saw today on MSNBC's website a F-16C with a TER with a LAU-131 7 round rocket pod under one wing and a BRU-57 with two GBU-54's under the other. The A-10 routinely carries the SUU-25A/ (for flares) and the F-18D carries the Zuni rocket pod. Looking at the charts it doesn't look like the F-35 will have the capability to use these weapons for target marking and such. So what happens?



What Dragon said. But I think eventually guys on the ground, in contact, will say something like "we're taking heavy fire from over there..." and multiple laser pointers will light up the bad guy location. The Lightning driver will see the (multiply) designated target(s) in the HMDS / EOTS... the software will do it's magic and cough up some (pretty damn accurate) coordinates, and then either the F-35 or other aircraft or drones will reach out and touch the folks at said coordinates...

I mean, how cool will it be for a troop on the ground to light up a target with the laser on his M4, and POOF! target gone in a matter of seconds - minutes?
Take an F-16, stir in a little A-7, bake, then sprinkle on a generous helping of F-117. What do you get? An F-35.
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quicksilver

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Unread post21 Nov 2017, 01:48

Kinda how it works right now, but...

Ground-based laser pointers can look like lotsa other things overhead a firefight. Digital CAS systems still not immune to operator error. Making sure the iron goes to the right place has gotten much easier than the days of flares, WP rockets and eyeball corrections from a mark, but Murphy is still alive and well, and the consequences of getting something wrong still just as deadly. The fact that we've gotten it right tens of thousands of times over the last decade-plus is a real testament to how far we've come but the re-learning of old lessons with new technology still scares me.
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SpudmanWP

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Unread post21 Nov 2017, 03:10

Take it one step further as overhead F-35 will (Block 4+) have ground fires tagged, classified, fixed, and ID'ed before the boots on the ground know that they are under fire.



Besides, persistent, wide-area sensors on UAVs (ie Gorgon Stare) are the future, not manned aircraft.

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010137

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Unread post21 Nov 2017, 04:33

wolfpak wrote:Will the F-35 units pick up the FAC(A) mission in the future? I can see in the not too distant future USAF F-35 units being deployed in the standard AEF rotation. Many of the current F-16 units have FAC(A) qualified crews that undertake that role. Just saw today on MSNBC's website a F-16C with a TER with a LAU-131 7 round rocket pod under one wing and a BRU-57 with two GBU-54's under the other. The A-10 routinely carries the SUU-25A/ (for flares) and the F-18D carries the Zuni rocket pod. Looking at the charts it doesn't look like the F-35 will have the capability to use these weapons for target marking and such. So what happens?


Great question wolfpak; lots of discussion about this one right now in our community. To make a blanket statement, many if not most prior fac(a)’s right now would love to have at least the option to mark with rockets depending on the scenario but they’re not on the roadmap for the foreseeable future. Lack of FMV and an ir marker complicate the situation as well making us dependent on voice, link, or laser handoffs. VMF continues to suck due to the weight of the equipment for the fac’s, lack of mil standardization of equipment architecture throughout different airframes, and fragility of the waveform during times of high demand. The jet is awesome because of how quick it can find targets but we need to continue to invest in ways to quickly mark targets for legacy platforms.
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steve2267

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Unread post21 Nov 2017, 07:01

010137 wrote:Great question wolfpak; lots of discussion about this one right now in our community. To make a blanket statement, many if not most prior fac(a)’s right now would love to have at least the option to mark with rockets depending on the scenario but they’re not on the roadmap for the foreseeable future. Lack of FMV and an ir marker complicate the situation as well making us dependent on voice, link, or laser handoffs. VMF continues to suck due to the weight of the equipment for the fac’s, lack of mil standardization of equipment architecture throughout different airframes, and fragility of the waveform during times of high demand. The jet is awesome because of how quick it can find targets but we need to continue to invest in ways to quickly mark targets for legacy platforms.


Hey 010... looks like no one welcomed you to our squalid little corner of the interwebs.... Welcome!

As Gums mentioned in a different thread... you need a better callsign. '010' is decimal for "A".... "Ayy!".... So maybe we'll just call you The Fonze? :D
Take an F-16, stir in a little A-7, bake, then sprinkle on a generous helping of F-117. What do you get? An F-35.
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quicksilver

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Unread post21 Nov 2017, 13:06

SpudmanWP wrote:Take it one step further as overhead F-35 will (Block 4+) have ground fires tagged, classified, fixed, and ID'ed before the boots on the ground know that they are under fire.


The real world is not as simple as video produced by commercial entities engaged in trying to sell us something. Unless determined by other means, identification (as opposed to the simple detection of something thermally significant) of targets by thermal sensors is nearly impossible. What tells us that the thermal event detected in the NGC video is 'a tank'? Answer? The narrator. What would allow a thermal imager to distinguish a AAA system from a tank? In terms of display technology we can certainly label things we detect in a display; that doesnt mean that those are identifications nor that those IDs are accurate.

Detecting thermally significant events on a battlefield is not hard; classifying and/or identifying those same events as 'enemy' or something worthy of 'the applcation of lethal force' is enormously difficult and is at the heart of the challenge to avoid blue-on-blue. Apart from geographic location, or movement, or other electronic segregation, what in the staring sensor image/video distinguishes one thing from another in a fashion that might allow us to kill it with a weapon? For example, pick the Toyotas from the Fords from the Chevys...

In an environment where getting it wrong is potentially a lethal error, false alarm rates and the veracity of any identification are a very big deal, and illustrates or reminds us how difficult CAS can be.
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010137

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Unread post21 Nov 2017, 15:07

steve2267 wrote:
010137 wrote:Great question wolfpak; lots of discussion about this one right now in our community. To make a blanket statement, many if not most prior fac(a)’s right now would love to have at least the option to mark with rockets depending on the scenario but they’re not on the roadmap for the foreseeable future. Lack of FMV and an ir marker complicate the situation as well making us dependent on voice, link, or laser handoffs. VMF continues to suck due to the weight of the equipment for the fac’s, lack of mil standardization of equipment architecture throughout different airframes, and fragility of the waveform during times of high demand. The jet is awesome because of how quick it can find targets but we need to continue to invest in ways to quickly mark targets for legacy platforms.


Hey 010... looks like no one welcomed you to our squalid little corner of the interwebs.... Welcome!

As Gums mentioned in a different thread... you need a better callsign. '010' is decimal for "A".... "Ayy!".... So maybe we'll just call you The Fonze? :D


Thanks Steve; I’ll just be the “new guy”...
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steve2267

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Unread post21 Nov 2017, 15:29

QS, your real-world experience sheds valuable light on just how hard CAS and combat in general is.

WRT your example of distinguishing a thermal blob as AAA or a tank, I surmise that would be where sensor fusion would come into play? If the thermal imaging does not have enough resolution to apply computer recognition techniques to the techniques... I presume this is where sensor fusion would come into play? Thermal says "hey, I've got something over here!" and so the system tasks the radar with mapping / imaging it. OR perhaps it has already been mapped / imaged, and the system creates a task to overlay the radar on the thermal and study the radar to see if it can come up with an image ident.

Proper identification of friend or foe is hard enough in the air... doing it with the mess that is the ground would seem to be an order of magnitude or two more difficult. Getting it wrong would seem to be worse than not identifying it at all. If something is ID'd incorrectly, someone has to recognize it, and correct it. For a pilot boring holes through the air at 400 some knots... that's just what he needs added to his plate at that moment.

Yeah, I'd say CAS is a tough nut.
Take an F-16, stir in a little A-7, bake, then sprinkle on a generous helping of F-117. What do you get? An F-35.
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quicksilver

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Unread post22 Nov 2017, 02:08

steve2267 wrote:...I presume this is where sensor fusion would come into play?


Your general understanding of fusion is correct, but as your example suggests, the fusion engine still must be able to access a sensor or an input that resolves the uncertainty necessary to satisfy the ROE. At some point, that probably has to come from an offboard source due to proximity and detail.

steve2267 wrote:For a pilot boring holes through the air at 400 some knots... that's just what he needs added to his plate at that moment.


In permissive environments, one's sensation of speed at altitude is fairly leisurely -- apart from the accommodations, little different than an airliner. Relatively speaking, more time to look around, focus on relevant information/comms/displays, and manage mission tasking. What changes things is when you're supporting troops in contact, time is critical, and the target is in close proximity to friendlies. It gets much busier, and target location, identification, and attention to delivery geometry become critical.
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wolfpak

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Unread post22 Nov 2017, 17:55

Thanks for the replies. Assuming the F-35 is deployed to the Mideast and the results indicate a valid need for the capability of carrying a rocket pod what happens? Does the JPO wait until the next software block release or do they a means to go with a "patch" to get it to the units quickly? Additionally this integration work could include the APKWS, a system which was not yet developed when the F-35 program was initiated but in demand now.
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Unread post22 Nov 2017, 18:02

There is a lot that "could" be done. However, weapon integration is a lot more than just launching/dropping a weapon. The weapon integration fits into everything from drag & range calculations to flight handling characteristics that do require full integration (at least until Block 4 & UAI).
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neptune

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Unread post22 Nov 2017, 18:37

wolfpak wrote:Thanks for the replies. Assuming the F-35 is deployed to the Mideast and the results indicate a valid need for the capability of carrying a rocket pod what happens? Does the JPO wait until the next software block release or do they a means to go with a "patch" to get it to the units quickly? Additionally this integration work could include the APKWS, a system which was not yet developed when the F-35 program was initiated but in demand now.


....Hydra warheads, M151 and M229 deliver 2.0-5.0 lbs. of HE at 6 miles per rocket; vs. the SDB-2 delivers the 250 lbs. at 45 miles. IMHO the APKWS would be a better application for the persistent drones, rotary and slower (A-10C/ AV-8B type) a/c rather than the "fast movers"!
:)
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Unread post22 Nov 2017, 18:57

LZuni is a good CAS weapon for fast movers. 50lb warhead (twice that of a Hellfire) at laser accuracy for a fraction of a Hellfire/SDB cost.
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