F-35 semi-stealth to stealth transition in Air to Air fight?

F-35 Armament, fuel tanks, internal and external hardpoints, loadouts, and other stores.
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redbird87

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Unread post17 Jun 2012, 11:08

First question, how many air to air missiles, of what type can the F-35 A and C carry internally. Is it 4 AIM-120s? Can any AIM-9s be added, or do you have to take away a AIM-120 to get there? How bout for the B model?

Second, if you added AIM-120s externally, obviously in a fight, you'd want to employ those first. Would doing so return the plane to it's full stealth configuration, or would you still have the weapons racks hanging there, cluttering up the radar cross-section? Can those be jettisoned to return to full stealth?
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1st503rdsgt

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Unread post17 Jun 2012, 12:15

All the early blocks will only carry 4 AIM-120s each, with the possibility of adding another two later on (don't ask me how they plan to do it). The AIM-9X will not fit in the internal bays, but the European ASRAAM can take the place of two AIM-120s on the door rails. My understanding is that all three missiles can be carried externally, but I'm not sure if the pylons can be ejected. If the plane has pylons installed, they've pretty much decided to give up VLO already, so ejecting them seems immaterial.

In any case, you will almost never see the F-35 carry more than two A2A weapons of any type, and four in a pinch A2A role will almost certainly be plenty given the AIM-120's reliability record. How often does a fighter pilot get to take more than four shots these days anyways?
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Unread post17 Jun 2012, 15:55

The nightmare scenario is always a North Korean invasion or a Taiwan Straits. Regardless of the capabilities of the individual aircraft, quantity has a quality all its own. You can be overwhelmed by your opponent. It has happened many times.
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redbird87

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Unread post17 Jun 2012, 18:39

Good response both. Thanks for the info 1st503rd. It surprises me a bit that they couldn't put 2 AIM-9s in one bay and 2 AIM 120s in the other. Is this because the Sidewinder's seeker has to be exposed to be uncaged? I suppose the AIM-120 is as good as the Sidewinder in a up close fight?

I am also concerned, particularly with the B and C variants, that the lack of an internal gun further exacerbates the thin internal A2A payload in a high intensity fight. As I understand it, the F-35 really can't run away from the high-end 4 and 4.5 gen threat aircraft. It also lacks rear aspect stealth and it's rear aspect IR signature is that of a roman candle. An internal gun would really be a nice defensive feature it seems, when you've expended your four missiles.

Stereo, you are dead on IMO. It would be wise to balance out our force of $120 million dollar stealth fighters with a true light-weight, low cost fighter. Something along the lines of an F-5. To further cut costs, you could forgo the expensive AESA suites in the lightweight fighter and simply data-link them to the 4.5 and 5th generation birds and AWACS for situational awareness. An internal IRST package and helmet queued targeting would be nice capabilities. A great internal cannon and a healthy number of rounds would be a must. This option would give us a good high/low mix, be very affordable, and keep our pilot corps sharp and robust in A2A skills. The thought of producing large quantities of light, maneuverable, $25 million fighters to support our top-end stealth birds flies in the face of the military industrial complex thinking. Cost effectiveness really isn't apart of the agenda.

I can buy Lockheed's marketing that the F-35 will replace the F-16 and AV-8. Their hype that it will effectively replace the F-15's role is almost as overstated as the pitch that it will replace the A-10 for true CAS missions. Clearly the killing of the F-22 at 187 will leave a gap that the F-35 will not be able to fill entirely.
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Unread post17 Jun 2012, 20:01

In any situation where there might be some sort of "overwhelming" force of inferior aircraft, the forward F-22/35s could act as targeters & updaters for AAM/SAMs launched from well behind them. These AIM/SAMs could be anything from the 14xAIM-120Ds that an F-35 (even the B) can carry (or for that mater ANY AIM-120C/D with a datalink fired from any plane) to the datalink SM (especially the SM-6) series of SAMs from our (or any one else's) navy assets.
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sketch22

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Unread post17 Jun 2012, 22:18

redbird87 wrote:It surprises me a bit that they couldn't put 2 AIM-9s in one bay and 2 AIM 120s in the other. Is this because the Sidewinder's seeker has to be exposed to be uncaged? I suppose the AIM-120 is as good as the Sidewinder in a up close fight?

They probably could, assuming asymmetric G-loading doesn't effect performance. The AIM-120 is nowhere near as good as a sidewinder up close because it wasn't designed to be. The 9x has thrust vectoring, can fire 60 degrees off bore-sight, and has a much higher G tolerance so the pilot can fire it while maneuvering.

I can buy Lockheed's marketing that the F-35 will replace the F-16 and AV-8. Their hype that it will effectively replace the F-15's role is almost as overstated as the pitch that it will replace the A-10 for true CAS missions. Clearly the killing of the F-22 at 187 will leave a gap that the F-35 will not be able to fill entirely.

When did they say it will replace the F-15s role? Please post a link because I've never heard them say that. Ever. I have heard talk about them augmenting the F-22 but never replacing the F-15C.

I hope I'm around to see the day when we realize how stupid killing F-22 production was. It would be hilarious if APA was right this whole time and we ended up getting destroyed in the next conventional war because we didn't buy enough Raptors.

And I agree that it is NOT an effective replacement for the hawg.
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Unread post17 Jun 2012, 22:50

The way they plan to get extra AMRAAMs in each bay is with an adapter that has two AMRAAM launchers on it and attaches to the heavy-load hardpoint on the internal bay's ceiling. I expect model B will be able to carry it as well as A & C but haven't seen that officially announced. With two AMRAAMs hanging from the ceiling on that adapter and one more on the usual AMRAAM spot that swings out when the door opens, that would be three per bay, for a total of six. (I have no experience flying F-16s but have read somewhere around here that that's about as many missiles as an F-16 would take on most missions anyway.) Using more adapters like that externally would add eight more AMRAAMs, two on each of four external hardpoints, plus the Sidewinders on the outer hardpoints, so the maximum air-to-air load would be sixteen missiles (presuming nobody bothers with another kind of adapter to carry even more than two per external hardpoint), but more likely real-world external configurations with six AMRAAMs inside would be either clean or carrying glide-bombs or cruise missiles such as JASSM and JSOW, which have minimal radar signatures themselves.

The two-AMRAAM adapter hasn't yet had any static ground tests or flight tests, but is definitely coming. Another adapter to hang from the upper internal hardpoint that I'm not so sure will ever really happen, but has had some development work done on it, would have a moving contraption that extends out like an arm to put a Sidewinder's rail outside the bay before firing and then retracts before the doors close. Presumably, you could design it to hold at least two Sidewinders, or a Sidewinder plus an AMRAAM, but I don't think any particular arrangement has been settled on. If you want to put Sidewinders inside, there are a couple of simpler ways to do it. One is to have the rail(s) fixed in place but slanted down a bit so that the missile launches while inside but immediately flies straight outside; if the wires & hoses inside the weapon bay need protection from the blast, the slanted-rail adapter could include a shroud around the missile so the flame is deflected outside, but you wouldn't need to add moving parts. The other way is with a fixed, non-moving rail that attaches to the lower hardpoint that already swings out when the doors open anyway. I've seen no hint that any work is being done on either of those options, though.

Carrying stuff externally does not mean abandoning stealth completely. Like the gun pod for models B & C, some weapons like I mentioned above are already stealthy themselves, and so could fuel tanks be, and even non-stealthy weapons could be enclosed inside a stealthy external pod. (One has already been built for some AMRAAMs on a Superhornet.) Also, even for carrying completely non-stealthy stuff externally, F-35 and F-22 have their own new kind(s) of pylon with minimal radar signature, so at least after the external weapons/tanks are released there'd be very little difference left from a totally clean configuration.
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Unread post18 Jun 2012, 01:37

Some of the material put out by LM seems to indicate that the F-35 will be able to fire AMRAAM at any target, including over-the-shoulder at an opponent attempting a merge. I thought the main advantage of the Sidewinder is that it is simply smaller.
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Unread post18 Jun 2012, 02:39

The F-35 is an All-Aspect VLO design.
Also, isn't AIM-9X Blk 2 a LOAL-capable missiile? A target need not be in the FOV ofit's seeker for it to be employed.
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checksixx

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Unread post18 Jun 2012, 04:18

1st503rdsgt wrote:The AIM-9X will not fit in the internal bays,


It most certainly will fit in the internal bays.
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1st503rdsgt

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Unread post18 Jun 2012, 04:43

checksixx wrote:
1st503rdsgt wrote:The AIM-9X will not fit in the internal bays,


It most certainly will fit in the internal bays.


In that case,

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Unread post18 Jun 2012, 04:58

Internal 9x is planned for Blk4/5.
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1st503rdsgt

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Unread post18 Jun 2012, 05:09

SpudmanWP wrote:Internal 9x is planned for Blk4/5.

Source? I can't seem to find anything definitive on the matter (an indication of how low a priority it is).
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jeffb

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Unread post18 Jun 2012, 05:37

AIM-9X slides of the rail doesn't it? Inner door station is an ejector. Possibly they need to update/redesign the software on the AIM-9X to get it to perform a drop/engine fire sequence like AIM-120 or ASRAAM.

LtoR AIM-120, AIM-9, AGM-88:

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They'll have clearance issues with those big fins won't they?
Last edited by jeffb on 18 Jun 2012, 06:02, edited 1 time in total.
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Unread post18 Jun 2012, 05:55

Source = Deduction

Starting from the position that IOC will have external Blk2 9x, then when the Norway docs mentioned Blk2, I figure it will be internal.

But, I could be wrong, it's happened before. ;)

Personally I do not see the need for an internal 9x. I would much rather have the longer range, better datalink, seeker, warhead size, etc of the AIM-120D than a 9x.

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