News

The Pentagon develops F-35s to attack and destroy nuclear-armed enemy intercontinental ballistic missiles

An F-35A Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter takes off on a training sortie at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida on March 6, 2012 file photo.
(REUTERS/U.s. Air Force photo/Randy Gon/handout)

The Pentagon is working with the industry to explore the possibility of making the bomb, missile or laser armed F-35s could destroy an attack with nuclear-armed Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) aimed at the US, as possible, bringing a new dimension to existing defense.

The idea would be to use F-35 weapons and sensors to detect or destroy an ICBM launch during the initial “boost” phase of the upward flight in the direction of the border of the atmosphere of the earth.

“We are excited about the concept,” a Senior Pentagon official said Warrior Maven.

The F-35, officials explain, can make use of a “kinetic” solution, in which the fire, and destroys the launching of an ICBM — or a “sensor solution”, where the “cues missile defense systems,” or the stop of the attacks earlier than otherwise possible.

“We are now looking at how we could close the kill chain in that process,” officials familiar with the ongoing exploration told Warrior Maven.

A senior DoD official explained that the prospect of the F-35 missile defense would probably hinge on important information from the intelligence services, when there is an indication or concern about a possible enemy to launch F-35C-armed carriers or other F-35s in the area would be able to use speed, stealth and sensor technology to find, ID and destroy an ICBM.

The prospect of the use of an F-35 for this purpose, a series of defensive capabilities that are not yet part of the Pentagon’s missile defense arsenal. For example, an F-35 can fire air-to-ground bombs, or rockets to detonate the ICBM during or just after launch. An F-35 can also make use of lasers and electronic warfare to burn, jam or disable the flight trajectory of an attacking ICBM. If an ICBM guidance system or propulsion mechanisms is disturbed, an ICBM would be thrown out, on the way to the ocean or an uninhabited area less likely to cause damage.

Also, there is a group of F-35s would be able to form a kind of network “relay system” with the help of the Multi-function Advanced Data Link (MADL) to provide threat information over a fleet of aircraft in the position to warn U.S. missile defense systems. This MADL data link, that allows a group of F-35s to all see the same thing in real-time, while performing a mission, could expand the scope of the systems or the detection of an enemy ICBM. It goes without saying that the previously Combatant Commanders and policy makers to learn from an attacking ICBM, the more time they have to consider and implement measures or launch a counter-attack.

ICBM launch points developed by potential adversaries, are often deliberately filed deep in the interior and heavily defended by air defenses, making them more difficult for certain weapons and attack assets to achieve.

“The F-35 would be its stealth configuration, and agility to get closer to ICBM launch points origin in enemy territory,” Loren Thompson, Chief Operating Officer of the Lexington Institute, told the Warrior Maven.

Also, there is a convention 2014 Report of the US-China Economic and Security Review contained a 70-page chapter about the Chinese military modernisation. Among the many findings of the report specifically cited Chinese “mobile” ICBM launchers with a whopping 10 “reentry vehicles” in some cases. These weapons, of course, a large new threats, the more reentry vehicles approaching a goal, the more difficult the defense. With this in mind, a F-35 might bring a possibility to make use of stealth, speed, and agility to work above the heavily defended areas in the interior to find, to hunt down and destroy mobile launchers.

The first launch or boost phase of an ICBM, it would seem, would be the best chance for a F-35 to the intent of the missile defense impact. Hitting an ICBM attack during the final, or “terminal” phase, Thompson said, would be challenges due to the hypersonic speeds at which the reentry vehicles to move. This raises the question as to whether the F-35 may be part of an integrated system able to detect and knock out enemy icbms, while they are traveling in space. While it is difficult, it might be ever possible for a F-35 on the use of GPS or other air-mounted sensors to communicate with satellites, which can fire a type of the interceptor to hit an ICBM during a space flight. In this scenario, a F-35 would function as a sensor or in a network “node” and not an actual attacker, per se.

North Korea released photos of the Hwasong-15 ICBM turned out that it was much bigger than its predecessor.
(KCNA via Reuters)

An F-35 would be something new to missile defense possible by the submission of a niche or, at the very least, very a complement to existing spatial systems. In contrast to offensive nuclear deterrents, such as air, sea and land weapons, OUR ICBM missile defense weapons are mainly country-based. A Ground Interceptor (GBI), for example, stationed in Ft. Greely in Alaska, or Vandenburg AFB, Calf., would a fire in the space during a icbms mid-course phase of the flight to intercept the attacking missiles. This brings a number of challenges, such as GBIs would need to make use of sensors or embedded technology, allowing them to distinguish distraction from the actual icbms.

Missile Defense Agency developers say that the radar and the GBI-mounted triangulated sensor cameras are already able to distinguish the difference between armed missiles and decoys.

“In 2017, when we shot down an ICBM target of the missile, the target missile contained measures to test the system and ensure that it is able to distinguish between different objects in the space, and then press the return of the vehicle,” a senior Pentagon official said Warrior Maven.

The emerging prospect of advanced threats are a major reason for the Pentagon is developing Multiple Kill Vehicle, a system, a technology designed to both detect and destroy multiple incoming missiles or decoys travel through space. Multiple Kill Vehicle, as it sounds, integrates a number of interceptors at one missile; a large number of decoys flying alongside an ICBM can increase the chances that an actual nuclear weapon will continue on to the goal. For this reason, Multiple Kill Vehicle, the sensors, developed by Raytheon, designed to distinguish decoys from missiles and knock out more than one threat of the same interceptor.

Regardless, identifying and capitalizing on the large numbers of icbm’s, by one estimate, a challenge. A single launch of a rogue North Korea only able to start with one or two icbms at most, gives a much more manageable threat for ground-based interceptors. An incoming salvo of icbm’s, on the other hand, is a different comparison. This leads to two strategies; the first would be an offensive deterrence with the help of the U.S. nuclear triad to stop the first attack ever by providing for a catastrophic retaliation — and the second would include a range of current technologically advanced defensive measures, including things such as satellites, lasers, Multiple Kill Vehicles or F-35s.

Destroying icbm’s is something very different than the tracking or interception of a short-or medium-range ballistic missiles. The F-35 is already developed in this capacity; the F-35 is being tested as an antenna node for the Navy’s Naval Integrated Fire Control-Counter Air system. This technology, which is now deployed, it makes use of the ship-based Aegis radar, antenna-sensor node and a guided SM-6 missiles to knock out enemy missiles from distances further than the horizon. Since its inception, NIFC-CA uses an E-2 Hawkeye surveillance plane as the antenna of the node. Now, the system can make use of a far more capable F-35 as the antenna of the sensor.

Kris Osborn is a Senior Fellow at The Lexington Institute. More Weapons and Technology -WARRIOR MAVEN (CLICK HERE)

Follow us

Don't be shy, get in touch. We love meeting interesting people and making new friends.

Most popular