Article Claims that F-35 May Help With Intercepting North Korea’s ICBMs

Here is yet another good idea fairy in regards to defeating North Korea’s ICBMs:

Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., raised more than a few eyebrows (and drew a few rolled eyes) when he suggested in November that the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter could intercept North Korean missiles headed for the United States. Hunter cited analysis from Los Alamos National Labs and other sources, according to Inside Defense.

Turns out the F-35 may be an ICBM buster after all, or at least be helpful toward that end. On Tuesday, Northrop Grumman called a small group of journalists to its offices in Linthicum, Maryland, to show the results of a 2014 experiment conducted with the Missile Defense Agency, or MDA.

The U.S. has no foolproof way to down a North Korean ICBM. Physics says the best opportunity comes during “boost phase,” as the rocket is leaving the launch pad. But DPRK anti-aircraft defenses make it difficult for the U.S. to get a weapon close enough to do any good. That’s why the Pentagon is looking at elaborate, futuristic concepts like arming drones with missile-killing lasers.

But the F-35 is studded with sensors like no other aircraft, including the Distributed Aperture System, or DAS, a half-dozen 17-pound electro-optical and infrared sensors. These feed a helmet-mounted display that allows the pilot to effectively “see through the plane” and spot incoming aircraft and missiles.

In October 2014, Northrop and MDA launched FTX-20, an experiment to see, among other things, whether the DAS could track an enemy ICBM. They took data from the sensors, ran it through algorithms developed by Northrop and MDA’s Enterprise Sensor Lab, generated a 3D-moving picture of the missile’s trajectory, and conveyed it over the Link 16 tactical data exchange. This kind of targeting data can help cue the U.S.Navy’s anti-ballistic missile destroyers or short- and intermediate-range missile defenses like the Army’s Terminal High Altitude Area Defense, or THAAD, missile battery deployed in South Korea.  [Defense One]

You can read the rest at the link, but feeding data to Patriot, Aegis, and THAAD systems will not defeat North Korea’s ICBMs.  These systems are not designed to intercept ICBMs, the Ground-based Midcourse Defense (GMD) system is.  That is why people who understand missile defense would have rolled their eyes at Rep. Hunter’s claim.

Additionally even the feeding of data to these systems to help with cueing the sensors to North Korean launches is of little value considering the US already has two AN/TPY-2 radar sites in Japan that provide much better cueing data.  This all adds up to limited value of the capability the F-35 provides in regards to North Korea launches.

Picture of the Day: Strategic Aircraft Fly Over South Korea During Vigilant Ace Exercise

Korea-U.S. joint air force drill

A B-1B Lancer strategic bomber, two F-35A and two F-35B stealth jets of the U.S., and two F-16K and two F-15K fighters of South Korea fly in formation over the Korean Peninsula in this year’s annual joint Korea-U.S. air force drill, Vigilant Ace, on Dec. 6, 2017, in this photo provided by the air force. The exercise against North Korean provocations is the biggest in its history. (Yonhap)

US Responds to North Korean Missile Launch with Exercise Bombing Strike

This is turning into what seems a monthly activity, North Korea shoots a missile and the US military responds with a practice bombing strike:

Two days after North Korea flew a missile over Japan, the United States and South Korea staged their own show of force with state-of-the-art stealth fighters Thursday.

Four US F-35B fighter jets joined two US B-1B bombers and four South Korean F-15 fighter jets in the joint US-South Korean flyover of the Korean Peninsula, an official with the South Korean air force told CNN.
The exercise was designed to “strongly counter North Korea’s repeated ballistic missile tests and development of nuclear weapons,” the official said.
In a statement, the air force said the US bombers flew out of Guam and four stealth fighter jets from a US Marine Corps base in Japan.
They conducted a mock bombing drill, which simulated a surgical strike of key enemy facilities, over the Pilsung Range in the eastern province of Gangwon.  [CNN]
You can read more at the link.

F-35 Aircraft Participate In Korea Based Exercise for the First Time

Some of America’s newest military hardware was exercised last month during the Foal Eagle/Key Resolve exercise between the ROK and the US:

A Marine F-35B fighter lifts off from the deck of the amphibious assault ship USS Wasp. The open hatch behind the cockpit enables air to flow through a mid-fuselage lift fan; that plus downward-vectored engine nozzles at the rear give the plane vertical lift so it can land pretty much anywhere.

The Pentagon revealed this week that U.S. Marine Corps F-35 fighters are operating in South Korea for the first time, as they participate in joint training exercises with the Republic of Korea’s military. The eight planes are from a squadron of F-35Bs deployed to Iwakuni, Japan in January, where they will be permanently stationed and on call to respond quickly if a crisis occurs on the Korean Peninsula.

And therein lies a bigger story than the ongoing training exercise in which allied forces are practicing how to operate together in wartime. F-35B, the Marine variant of the tri-service fighter, isn’t just the world’s first supersonic tactical aircraft capable of taking off and landing vertically, it is also invisible to radar. That’s what being stealthy means — the enemy can’t see you, but you can see them.

When you combine the vertical agility and invisibility of the Marine Corps’ latest fighter with the fused data from diverse sensors and the ability to share information securely among all fighters on a mission, what you have is a plane that can operate pretty much anywhere. Including over North Korea. So although U.S. Pacific Command is at pains to describe the training exercise as a routine annual event intended to provoke no one, the F-35’s presence is sending a powerful message to the mercurial leader of North Korea.  [Forbes]

You can read more at the link.

Picture of the Day: F-35 Participates In Joint Drill Between US and the ROK

U.S. stealth fighter on bombing drill in Korea

In this photo provided by the U.S. Forces Korea (USFK) on March 25, 2017, the U.S. Air Force’s F-35B stealth fighter takes off from its base in Japan on March 23. The fighter participated in a joint drill between South Korea and the United States, and engaged in precision bombing training, among other things, before returning to its base. (Yonhap)

Picture of the Day: South Korea to Buy F-35A?

S. Korea mulls buying 20 F-35A fighter jets

This undated photo, released by The Associated Press, shows the radar-evading F-35A fighter ready to take off at a U.S. air base. South Korea is considering procuring 20 additional F-35A fighters to enhance its wartime strike capabilities, military officials said on Sept. 12, 2016, amid escalating nuclear threats posed by North Korea. (Yonhap)

US Government Denies F-35 Technology Transfers to South Korea

This decision makes me wonder if this technology transfer denial has anything to do with how the ROK military continues to have issues keeping classified information secret?:

South Korea’s plan to receive technology transfers from Lockheed Martin in exchange for purchasing F-35 stealth fighters has partly been scrapped due to rejection by the U.S. government.

New Politics Alliance for Democracy Rep. Ahn Gyu-baek said that the U.S. rejected the export of four technologies, including the Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar system, among 25 core technologies that were to have been transferred.

The military had planned to load the AESA radar, which is more capable of detecting targets than existing radars, on South Korean fighter jets.

Minister Chang Myoung-jin of the Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) said at a parliamentary audit on Thursday that the agency is pursuing both domestic development and international cooperation to develop new technologies following the rejection from the United States.

DAPA is said to be seeking to independently develop the AESA radar and infrared search technologies and jointly develop comprehensive technologies for electromagnetic interference equipment with a European corporation.

A DAPA official said although Lockheed didn’t fulfill its contract terms, there is no way to impose sanctions as the U.S. government rejected the deal.   [KBS World Radio]

ROK Refuses to Have F-35s Serviced in Japan

Considering how many more US and Japanese F-35s will be located in Japan it makes sense that the deep maintenance facility would be located there.  Of course the ROKs have to show their displeasure with this:

South Korea said on Thursday it will not send its F-35 fleet to Japan for heavy airframe maintenance, one of the two Asian hubs chosen by the United States to service the Lockheed Martin Corp stealth fighter.

Instead, it is likely to fly the jets to Australia for maintenance, about eight times further away than Japan and well beyond their operating range. The three nations, all key U.S. allies, are the only countries in the region to have ordered the F-35s.

The F-35 program has been lauded as an example of the United States and its allies working together to bolster inter-operability, but in Asia the maintenance plan is bringing traditional rivalry between Seoul and Tokyo to the fore.

The three-star air force general who runs the F-35 program for the United States, Chris Bogdan, told reporters on Wednesday that Japan would handle heavy maintenance for the jets in the northern Pacific from early 2018, with Australia to handle maintenance in the southern Pacific.

“There will never be a case where our fighter jets will be taken to Japan for maintenance,” said an official at South Korea’s arms procurement agency, the Defense Acquisition Program Administration.

“South Korea has the right to decide where to conduct maintenance for its F-35 jets, and it will decide whenever the need arises.”

The plan at the moment is for the 40 F-35s to be acquired by South Korea to be serviced in Australia, an Australian defense ministry source told Reuters on condition he wasn’t identified.

South Korea will receive the first of the stealth planes in 2018.

A source familiar with the F-35 program said South Korea could, at a later stage, negotiate with Washington on the possibility of handling the heavy maintenance of its own F-35 jets.

Such a deal would require a significant investment by Seoul, including specialized equipment used to test the jets’ stealth. [Reuters]

You can read more at the link, but when the ROKs decided to pursue the F-35 you would think that this was something that was discussed as part of the contract talks; so this should not be too surprising. I would not be surprised that this is just a big media show for domestic consumption now.  2023 is the earliest that the ROK’s F-35 need servicing so a lot can change by then.   So it makes sense that Korean politicians now do not want the headache of being accused of compromising defense of the nation to Japan needlessly and let politicians down the road work something out where these planes are quietly serviced in Japan.