F-35 Loadout question: More internal AtA missiles

F-35 Armament, fuel tanks, internal and external hardpoints, loadouts, and other stores.
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RobertCook

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Unread post12 Oct 2006, 21:23

dwightlooi wrote:I think carrying two AMRAAMs in place of the 2000lb bulky ordance is a possibility. This yields a total of 6 internal missiles.


I'm pretty sure that it's possible, but it depends on how badly a customer wants/needs it compared to how difficult it turns out to be to integrate it in the end. If more than four internal missiles were a big selling point for the F-35, then it would have been seriously considered much sooner, and quite possibly have influenced the design of the bays, as well. As it is, those bays definitely seem to be designed specifically for one AAM and a single, larger weapon.

dwightlooi wrote:As far as a new LAU, it can be as simple as mounting two LAU-142/A from the F-22 on an adapter.


It's not simply a matter of perceived size based on the normal weapon load, which would understandably make many people believe that the F-35's bays are "larger" than the F-22's main bays, but of geometry. If you look closely at an empty F-35 bay, the large portion--normally intended for a single 2000-lb-class air-to-ground weapon--is much narrower at the top than halfway down (just like most weapons). This means that while it can accommodate a relatively large weapon, there is clearly not enough room to simply attach two LAU-142/A ejectors. Fitting two AIM-120Cs side-by-side, even when staggered, would require about 21.5 inches of width at the top and bottom of the bay with zero clearance (unacceptable), which even then seems unlikely considering that the widest part of the bay--the middle, not the top or bottom--can just barely contain the GBU-31 at 18 inches of width. Granted, I have not taken precise measurements, nor do I have the means by which to do so, but two AMRAAMs would obviously be an extremely tight fit at the very least, which would take some non-trivial engineering to overcome (view the first attachment).

In comparison, each of the F-22's "smaller" main bays actually have plenty of width to accommodate three staggered AIM-120Cs. Although they may lack the length and possibly the depth to accommodate the GBU-31, they're good at what they were primarily designed for: carrying AMRAAMs (view the second attachment). Even with all of that space, I'm sure that clearance was a major design concern, as it should be, because missiles aren't always going to be launched under ideal, benign conditions.

EBJet wrote:
skrip00 wrote:I dont think the main doors will hold any weapons... period.


Maybe they will..


Well, the inner door already does, so it's not out of the question, although it would take more work than simply adding a third ejector.

EBJet wrote:Back in the day of the ATF competition,one of the proposed configurations for the YF-23 had AIM-9's on the bay doors of a single large bay.with a rotary type launcher for the 120's..Another proposal was to lengthen the aircraft and give separate forward bays for the AIM-9's and a trapeze style launcher for the 120's..


A major difference, however, is that the F-23 was still being designed back then, while the F-35's design has largely been set by now. I'm sure that it would be possible to change this in the near future, but unless there is a clear plan like for the F-23, it's probably not going to happen.

Don't get me wrong--I do not doubt for a moment the technical possibility of the F-35 carrying three AAMs of some type in each bay, but whether any customer would find any of the solutions acceptable is another matter. The USAF, for example, is pretty conservative when it comes to means of carrying and firing weapons. Mounting the missile on the main door is probably the only acceptable solution in this case, because stacking them in some kind of rack (the original F-23 proposal if I'm not mistaken) was deemed unacceptable, and obviously a rotary launcher is out of the question for the F-35. One way or another, this issue is not quite as trivial as it is sometimes made out to be.

dwightlooi wrote:The F-35A and C weapon bays are at least 18" in width and height, and that is not counting space allowance for the ejectors and adapters. We know this because that is the absolute minimum it takes to hold a GBU-29 (2000 lb) JDAM.


The bay is wrapped pretty tightly around the largest single weapon that it was designed to carry, with a narrow top portion allowing for a single station. Anything else it can accommodate would be either happenstance or something specifically designed for such limitations (such as the BRU-61/A).

dwightlooi wrote:We also know that the bay is greater than 4.13m in length because that is the length of a JSOW. We also know that the envelope is actually trapezoidal and not square by looking inside the bay. This means that towards the lower half of the bay it is wider than 18". By how much is an article for guesswork until Lockmart releases official specs. But if another 3" can be found, then then two staggered AMRAAM is a confirmed possibility.


Note that the bay is narrower at the top, and that at the bottom, some of the space may be occupied by mechanisms in the main door on one side and the existing AMRAAM on the other. There is not much empty space in this bay at all when carrying an AMRAAM and a GBU-31, and I'm sure that this is by design. If the F-35 is ever going to carry more than two AMRAAM-class missiles in each bay, I don't think that it's going to be as straightforward as people would hope. This bay is highly optimized for its intended purpose--even more so than the F-22's bays, for the sake of comparison. However, like I said earlier, it's certainly possible to find a way for the F-35 to carry six AAMs, but someone has to want it badly enough to pay for major work, as well as tolerate any compromises that may turn out to be necessary. It's inherent in the design, I'm afraid. The engineers could have sacrificed some performance or internal volume to create a more versatile bay geometry, but the current set of tradeoffs has apparently been deemed good enough for a strike fighter in full stealth configuration.

dwightlooi wrote:I don't thinkcarrying more AAMs will be a dependent on a "block" upgrade of the F-35. It'll simply come in form of ann ordnance ejector assembly which can be used with ANY F-35 "block". From an engineering standpoint it is no more or less difficult than making one of those twin rail launchers for carrying two AMRAAMs on one Pylon on an F-18 for example.


Actually, it would almost certainly be a lot more difficult. In the F-35's bays, there is a severe space limitation that won't allow for a solution like the external twin rail launchers of the F/A-18, and probably not even for packing the missiles side-by-side with sufficient clearance. A system that staggers and stacks them vertically could probably be made to fit, but the USAF doesn't even like to stack weapons vertically when they're external, much less when they're internal, where a malfunction of the launch mechanism could result in a dangerous situation or the loss of more than one weapon. Granted, dealing with live ordnance is always dangerous, but there's a reason that the USAF preferred the F-22's flat bays to the F-23's deep but narrow single bay. I don't know whether that would have been a deal-breaker, but the F-23's bay was definitely being redesigned for the ATF proposal.

Despite the difficulties, six internal missiles on the F-35 can be done and there is a decent chance that it will be done someday in the future, but it's equally likely that customers will simply accept the compromises, either to missile capacity or stealth (by using external missiles). Only time will tell, but I do wish that this were a simple matter. It could have been, were the bays designed for six AAMs from the start.
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habu2

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Unread post12 Oct 2006, 23:12

You guys crack me up. There's room for another missile or three in the 'burner can, but that doesn't mean they'll carry them there...
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Tintin

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Unread post13 Oct 2006, 09:54

I've also heard that the bay is very tight (possibly worse on STOVL) and that there is barely enough room for an AMRRAM on the door mounted A2A station and one on the air-to-ground station. Don't forget that when the inner door opens to deploy the A2A missile, the missile and launcher travel through an arc. Allowing for safe clearance of the wings and fins, I can see why they have decided to have only A2A missiles in the bay.
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Unread post13 Oct 2006, 10:57

[/quote]....It can then fire its Amraams cued by other systems. Or, one F-35 can stand off beyond missile range with its radar going while the shooter, electronically silent, sneaks in close to fire its missiles undetected.

As for WVR, I don't care whether you are in an F-22 or a Typhoon or an F-35 or an F-15--you're screwed. If you've gotten yourself into such a mess, then you're probably not a very good pilot to begin with and will get shot down. Dogfighting has gotten to the point of MAD: mutually assured destruction.[/quote]


I agree totally with your comments on BVR missiles - after all that must be one of the reasons so many nations want to buy F-35. One problem though is that the shooter has still got to give some data to the AMRAAM whilst in flight (I'm not aware of any third party capability with AMRAAM or that an AWACS can do data link for a missile). So he has to turn his radar on. Also JSF will have a low RCS - it's not invisible and it's certainly only going to be really good head on. Managing your stealth will be a training issue and with an external load you are still going to need weapons that can out shoot the threat as your RCS will not be low any more. I agree with you statement on MAD. But if visual ID is the basis for your Rules of Engagement having a winning weapon solution becomes essential.
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Unread post13 Oct 2006, 16:15

Tintin wrote:...One problem though is that the shooter has still got to give some data to the AMRAAM whilst in flight (I'm not aware of any third party capability with AMRAAM or that an AWACS can do data link for a missile). So he has to turn his radar on.


The F-35 has several items that will help with targeting without giving away it's position:

1. AESA LPI Radar - The AN/APG-81 AESA Radar is based on, but more advanced than, the APG-77 radar installed in the F-22. Since it's development started over 10 years after the F-22's, it is a lot more advanced. It has more modes, more CPU processing, and weighs half as much for the processing unit (not including the T/R modules). Where the F-22's CPUs are dedicated circuitry(ie it's functions can never change), the F-35's CPUs are FPGA processors (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/FPGA). These can change their basic function thousands of times a second to provide the maximum processing power for the task given. A testament to that fact is that the F-22 will be getting a derivative of the APG-81 in a future Block Upgrade. The LPI functions will allow it to get targeting data without alerting the target aircraft of it's intentions.

2. EOTS - The EOTS system is an evolutionary extension to the IRST systems installed in other aircraft. It contains 3rd generation FLIR tech that gives superb targeting data, both A2G AND A2A. The EOTS is part of the DAS system that gives the pilot a 360 degree sphere of data for targeting. This again is a first for any fighter aircraft.

3. EW - The F-35 will have the most advanced EW suite ever installed in a fighter aircraft. Part of the EW system is the ability to gain targeting data from the signals received from enemy aircraft.

4. Sat Comm - The F-35 will be the first fighter aircraft that will be produced with a built-in satellite communications array. This will allow for a jam-proof, intercept-proof way of receiving targeting data from off-board sources.

And yes, the F-22/F-35/AMRAAM can be, and has been designed to be, targeted and launched based on 3rd party targeting info.

As to the mid-course updates, it's all secure and stealthy. Also, work is being done to add communications to the APG-81 itself. This will allow directional communications that will have less of a likelihood of intercept or detection. btw, any Link-16 component can be used to do the mid-course update.

And finally, strong stealth features allow the F-22/F-35 to launch their AMRAAMs later in the flight envelope against targets that do not know they are there (will not be evading). This will likely eliminate the need for targeting updates as the target aircraft will be right where the AMRAAM expects it to be when it goes active in the last seconds of it's flight.
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Unread post13 Oct 2006, 19:17

dwightlooi wrote:It is not important however many "percent" as good the F-35 is compared to the F-22. What matters is that it is better than the competition. And Lockmart does believe that the F-35 is better in overall effectiveness than the Typhoon even for A2A.


Even while carrying additional AAMs externally, the F-35 should still have a significant advantage over the Typhoon with regard to signature, so they're probably right. Whether the Typhoon would be "better" in the role of interceptor, however, depends on what one needs or expects from an interceptor.

Tintin wrote:When he does the Typhoon will spot him and fire back. Admittedly an active radar missile may only find the F-35 late (due to the stealth characteristics of F-35) but the F-35 is likely to have to manoeuvre at some stage and this will change his stealth / rcs, making for an easier target.


In this hypothetical scenario, the Typhoon will need to have a very precise location to program into the missile in order to give it any chance of finding a low-observable target. Unless the Typhoon has such an F-22-like ability against an LPI radar at this range, it will have nothing at which to fire back.

Tintin wrote:Secondly, there is the issue of rules of engagement. If you can only engage once you have visual identification, for example, I still think that Typhoon would have a distinct advantage - leaving the area to go home may not be an option after all.


The F-35 should have a decisive advantage in situational awareness throughout the battle. Knowing the Typhoon's position and heading first would allow the F-35 to sneak up behind (or nearly so) the Typhoon, beyond the fields of regard of its sensors, in order to make a visual identification (possibly at a relatively long range with the optical sensors) and take the first shot.

Tintin wrote:The above comments on stealth would only apply if F-35 were carrying bay mounted weapons only. When carrying external loads I suspect the rcs will be a real issue and the use of longer range WVR and BVR weapons would become essential.


I think that weapon range could become more significant in this case under certain conditions, but it all starts with signatures and sensors. Using the right tactics, the F-35 loaded with external AAMs would still have an advantage in being able to locate the Typhoon first and dictate the parameters of the engagement.

Tintin wrote:One problem though is that the shooter has still got to give some data to the AMRAAM whilst in flight (I'm not aware of any third party capability with AMRAAM or that an AWACS can do data link for a missile). So he has to turn his radar on.


Assuming just for the sake of argument that only the aircraft that fired the AMRAAM can guide it, all it has to do is relay the information that it received from the datalink--this is no problem for the F-35.

habu2 wrote:You guys crack me up. There's room for another missile or three in the 'burner can, but that doesn't mean they'll carry them there...


Your general sentiment is true enough for the USAF, which has the F-22 as well as the F-15 to handle air superiority, but other customers may want greater air-to-air payload in the future, and LockMart may decide to incorporate it in order to better compete for sales.
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Unread post14 Oct 2006, 01:16

Tintin wrote:I've also heard that the bay is very tight (possibly worse on STOVL) and that there is barely enough room for an AMRRAM on the door mounted A2A station and one on the air-to-ground station. Don't forget that when the inner door opens to deploy the A2A missile, the missile and launcher travel through an arc. Allowing for safe clearance of the wings and fins, I can see why they have decided to have only A2A missiles in the bay.



Then why would LM design a stealthy strike fighter with so very little room for internal weapons??? Which, is the whole point of the design............. :?
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Unread post14 Oct 2006, 03:21

Corsair1963 wrote:Then why would LM design a stealthy strike fighter with so very little room for internal weapons??? Which, is the whole point of the design...:?


LM designed a fighter to Govt Specs. We got exactly what we asked for. If we wanted a fighter that could carry more, we would have asked for it. That would also mean a fighter that weighed more, was more complex, and would cost more.

Full stealth is only needed for the first few attack waves. After that, the vast majority of enemy A2A assets in the AO will be neutralized. The F-35 then can carry it's max loadout if needed for it's primary mission of A2G operations.

Remember how during GW1 that the F-117s were able to bomb Baghdad with impunity. There were less than a few dozen of them and they could only fly at night.

Now go forward 25 years. The F-35 has better stealth, has better situational awareness, can attack more targets (SDB), can defend itself (AMRAAM), and is supersonic if needed. Oh yeah, there will be HUNDREDS of them! :shock:

We got EXACTLY the attack aircraft that we needed.
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Unread post17 Oct 2006, 02:08

Put simply, there are three possibilities for carrying 6 AAMs internally on the F-35.

(1) The crossection of the main weapon bay is trapezoidal. It is about 18" wide about 1/2 way from ther ceiling and wider towards the bottom1/3 of the bay. By relative measurements (using the cross section of the door amraam as a 7" reference) the main bay looks about 22~23" wide at the bottom not including the envelope for the door missile (33~34" wide in all). There is a very good chance that two staggered AMRAAMs will fit if there is nothing protuding into the envelope required for the AMRAAMs. Thus one possibility is that you can simply make an inverted T adapter onto which two LAU-142s bolt onto and hold two staggered AMRAAMs close to the bottom of the bay.

(2) If two AMRAAMs do not fit as described in (1), the clearance issue we are talking about will end up being one of one inches or so. One solution is to hold the two AMRAAMs closer together than is the case on the F-22 such that the fins actually do not clear of each other. The LAUs hydraulically angled inwards moving the AMRAAMs closer when stowed. Once the door opens, the LAUs rotates about 10~15 degrees separating the two missiles to provide clearance for launch. The door missile is already out of the way so the AMRAAMs in the main station can widen out into the space the normally encroaches on the door missile's stowage envelope. This is more complex, but using this method there is NO CHANCE that the missiles won't fit.

(3) The F-35 will enter operational service around 2012 or so. The AIM-120D is scheduled for 2008 and there will be one more AIM-120 variant after that around 2010~2011. The current plan is for a dual role (AAM/HARM) missile to replace the AMRAAM after that (circa 2015). Given the move to internal weapons storage on US aircraft, this new missile may very well adopt the ESSM style folding fin and fit into a 7 square envelope even though the diameter is also 7". If this turns out to be the case, then none of the above issues relevant. The F-22 will then carry 8+2 AAMs and the F-35 6 AAMs.
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Unread post17 Oct 2006, 02:52

The ASRAAM is smaller than the AMRAAM. So, maybe one of each type could replace the 2,000lbs PGM. This inturnwould still give the F-35 six AAM's. (i.e. 4-AMRAAM's & 2-ASRAAM's) Just another possibility... :roll:
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Unread post17 Oct 2006, 22:37

dwightlooi wrote:Put simply, there are three possibilities for carrying 6 AAMs internally on the F-35.


First, I want to say that your tenacity against some fierce opposition (in this and other forums regarding this topic) is most impressive. :)

dwightlooi wrote:(1) The crossection of the main weapon bay is trapezoidal. It is about 18" wide about 1/2 way from ther ceiling and wider towards the bottom1/3 of the bay.


I'm not absolutely sure that we're seeing the same thing, here. If you look at Figure01 in my previous reply above, the widest part of the bay is where the outer door is hinged, right behind the guy's shoulder. If the F-35 can indeed carry the Mk 84 GBU-31, then that would be where the widest part of the bomb is located, giving you at least 18 inches. Below this point, the outer side of the bay will narrow somewhat when the outer door is closed, and the inner side will be occupied by the AMRAAM mounted on the inner door, further narrowing the bottom portion of the bay, which really is wrapped fairly tightly around the largest single weapon it can hold. There is no wide, open space left empty at the bottom when a GBU-31 is mounted; the thick doors fill in whatever space is left over (as defined by the aircraft's structure).

dwightlooi wrote:By relative measurements (using the cross section of the door amraam as a 7" reference) the main bay looks about 22~23" wide at the bottom not including the envelope for the door missile (33~34" wide in all). There is a very good chance that two staggered AMRAAMs will fit if there is nothing protuding into the envelope required for the AMRAAMs.


In all of the pictures I have, it's awfully hard to tell due to perspective and any potential spatial distortion introduced by the lens. For reference, Figure03 (attached to this reply) shows a BLU-109 GBU-31 (correct me if I'm wrong) mounted in the bay along with an AMRAAM (in the open position, of course); the bomb's diameter is approximately 14.6 inches. Using more precise calculations than before, about 22.17 inches of width would be required for two staggered AMRAAMs to be able to literally scrape past each other while being ejected--the additional width needed over the diameter of the BLU-109 is 7.57 inches, which is greater than the diameter of an AMRAAM (not counting the fins) and greater than half of the diameter of the bomb itself. Additionally, those 22.17 inches would be needed at both the top and bottom of a virtual "box" that is 12.45 inches high, not just at the single widest point of the bay, which is not guaranteed to be much more than 18 inches to begin with. Does this fit seem likely? Not to me. Actually, that BLU-109 looks tight enough in there as it is, and probably wouldn't quite fit if the structural members of the outer door were not specifically designed to fit around the JDAM strakes (can you see what I'm talking about?). While it looks as though there may be just enough room to fit the wider Mk 84 GBU-31, due to the bay's tailored design, at this point, I have to seriously doubt the feasibility of fitting two staggered AMRAAMs side-by-side in the simplest manner.

dwightlooi wrote:Thus one possibility is that you can simply make an inverted T adapter onto which two LAU-142s bolt onto and hold two staggered AMRAAMs close to the bottom of the bay.


Such an arrangement would not fit the existing station, based on the example I've just given. The bay doesn't get any wider than the point at which the outer door is hinged. Yes, it's that tiny--quite long, but only wide enough to contain the Mk-84 GBU-31. Look at the shape of the structural reinforcements on the outer door, which fit right around the shape of the bomb and its strakes--the bay is not a wide trapezoid at the bottom when closed, and the inner portion is occupied by the existing AMRAAM, as mentioned earlier.

dwightlooi wrote:(2) If two AMRAAMs do not fit as described in (1), the clearance issue we are talking about will end up being one of one inches or so.


That's what I think is so frustrating about this issue, and why it keeps coming up around the Internet. The bay seems to come so close to being more versatile, but as we can see, it truly was very specifically designed for one large air-to-ground weapon (even more specifically, a GBU-31 JDAM) and one AAM.

dwightlooi wrote:One solution is to hold the two AMRAAMs closer together than is the case on the F-22 such that the fins actually do not clear of each other. The LAUs hydraulically angled inwards moving the AMRAAMs closer when stowed. Once the door opens, the LAUs rotates about 10~15 degrees separating the two missiles to provide clearance for launch. The door missile is already out of the way so the AMRAAMs in the main station can widen out into the space the normally encroaches on the door missile's stowage envelope. This is more complex, but using this method there is NO CHANCE that the missiles won't fit.


If the two missiles are stowed with their fuselages in contact with each other, the minimum combined "box" they would fit is 19.45 inches by 12.45 inches, which is probably not going to fit horizontally in the bay, due to its shape. However, they may fit vertically or diagonally, if you could design a dual launcher that can handle this configuration reliably and could fit in the remaining space. I don't know--there's a lot of stress that the launcher would have to withstand that may only be feasible in the configuration you've described, but that is not likely to fit. One way or another, it's a risky proposition to fit and be able to use three standard AIM-120Cs in each of the F-35's bays.

dwightlooi wrote:(3) The F-35 will enter operational service around 2012 or so. The AIM-120D is scheduled for 2008 and there will be one more AIM-120 variant after that around 2010~2011. The current plan is for a dual role (AAM/HARM) missile to replace the AMRAAM after that (circa 2015). Given the move to internal weapons storage on US aircraft, this new missile may very well adopt the ESSM style folding fin and fit into a 7 square envelope even though the diameter is also 7". If this turns out to be the case, then none of the above issues relevant.


OK, now you're being more realistic. ;) Sure, just like the GBU-39/BRU-61 system, weapons could be created or modified to fit weapon bays, rather than the other way around. The AIM-120C itself with its clipped fins is one such example, although it's obviously better suited for the F-22 than the F-35. I guess we'll have to wait and see what the various F-35 operators decide to do, but taking fins out of the equation would certainly simplify the issue. Like I said, there is no doubt that something could be done, but it's not trivial, and operators have to want it enough. Until something major is done, it looks as though the F-35 will only be able to carry four AAMs. Oh, well.

dwightlooi wrote:The F-22 will then carry 8+2 AAMs and the F-35 6 AAMs.


Hmmm...yes, it seems that 8 AMRAAMs with folding fins should be able to fit in the F-22's main bays handily, which makes me wonder whether 16 GBU-39s could fit right now.... Of course, this depends on exactly how the bays are shaped, which isn't entirely clear from Figure02 above.

Corsair1963 wrote:The ASRAAM is smaller than the AMRAAM. So, maybe one of each type could replace the 2,000lbs PGM. This inturnwould still give the F-35 six AAM's. (i.e. 4-AMRAAM's & 2-ASRAAM's) Just another possibility... :roll:


The ASRAAM isn't that much smaller, and actually has longer fins. On the other hand, substituting an AIM-9X should save about 1 inch of width, which probably isn't going to help enough anyway. This is an interesting idea, though, and unless this type of AAM is going to be considered obsolete anytime soon, we'd probably want the F-35 to carry a couple of them for the air superiority role.
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Unread post18 Oct 2006, 22:23

Okay...in reference to the thread subject and the picture posted above...for those of us (myself included) that have been fortunate enough to actually stand/sit/crawl into/around the F-35's weapons bay...we can surely tell you that while it appears to be easy enough to add launchers for more missles/SDB's etc...it's not. I would be amazed if they could get anything else in it. Very tight space constraints! Unless someone know's otherwise, as far as I know, advances in weapons/carriage is not on the front burner for the F-35 right now.

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Unread post19 Oct 2006, 04:13

Check, if you already played around in the F-35's weapons bays and talked to the engineers, you already know the answer. :wink:
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Unread post19 Oct 2006, 14:01

I've played around in it a bit, but honestly have not discussed the issue with any of the engineers.

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Unread post20 Oct 2006, 08:08

This is how I estimated the width of the bay at the point roughly on the same plane as the tail end of the AIM-120. The bay is about 35" wide overall. This is why I believe that it MAY BE possible to fit three AMRAAMs in the bay. The AMRAAMs will not be side by side on the same level in a staggered fashion. The door missile will be lower and to the left while the two main station missiles will be staggered and a little higher.

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