Monday, December 23, 2019

F-35 Broad Area Maritime Surveillance

I keep encountering a recurring belief among observers/commenters that the F-35 is some kind of miracle, broad area maritime surveillance (BAMS) platform and I don’t know where this comes from.  I suspect it’s a case of F-35 proponents latching on to anything they can to justify the aircraft.

This is an important claim because the F-35 in the BAMS role is claimed to be the foundation of the distributed lethality concept, the savior of carrier groups, the guidance system for attacking missiles, and the key to achieving total victory over China – all due to its claimed ability to leisurely cruise through enemy air/water space completely undetected while using its radar to search an entire hemisphere of the world with 100% detection of all enemy assets.  If that’s true, China stands absolutely no chance against us.  Is it true? 

Well, there is zero authoritative public domain information on the subject, that I’m aware of.  That makes drawing any definitive conclusions difficult, to say the least.  However, we have unlimited logic available to us so let’s apply some and see where it leads.

Detection Range.  The F-35 with its APG-81 radar is claimed to have nearly unlimited detection range with 100% detection and target identification.  Of course, this is ridiculous.  Without getting into the math, physics, and software of radar function, the simplistic truth is, ‘more power equals greater range’.  Thus, the larger, higher powered radar has better range and resolution than the smaller, lower powered one.  So, a fighter size radar, for example, has less range than an AWACS.

The only hint of range data for the APG-81 that I’m aware of is a claim of 150 km (90 miles) or so and that claim has occasionally been associated with a 1 sq.m. target which implies an aircraft target and aerial detection mode.  How applicable that is to the broad area maritime surface search we’re discussing is an open question.

Any manufacturer’s claim, which is, presumably, what the 90 mile claim is, is based on non-stealthy targets under ideal conditions, at best, or, far more likely, it’s just based on someone’s theoretical calculations.

Let’s consider the nature of the targets that are the subject of BAMS.  We’re looking for stealthy warships of various sizes.  China, for example, has their versions of the Burke although, visually, they appear to be a bit more stealthy.  They also have stealth missile boats (the Type 22 is a good example), corvettes, and frigates.  These stealth ships have reduced radar signatures.  The only data we have on ship stealth is vague statements that the ship (whichever ship) has a radar signature of a ‘fishing boat’.  Oddly, almost every ship of whatever size and degree of stealth seems to have the same claimed ‘fishing boat’ radar signature.  Obviously, the claim is very generic and utterly useless.  Still, it gives us some sort of very general idea of the reduction in radar signature.

What this means for our F-35 BAMS mission is that whatever the claimed range of the APG-81 radar might be, the effects of wave clutter, weather, and ship stealth combine to greatly reduce the actual detection range.

We also need to recognize the difference between detection and identification.  Let’s say we detect a ‘fishing boat’ at x-miles.  Okay, that’s nice but what is it?  Is it an actual fishing boat?  We’d hate to launch a maximum effort naval strike only to find out that the target was, indeed, a fishing boat!  That would be a lot of wasted missiles.  That means we have to identify the target in addition to detecting it.  That, in turn, means we have to get much closer – to the point where we can either visually identify it or our radar provides sufficient resolution that we can identify the signature.  So, our effective identification range is much shorter than our detection range which, we’ve already noted, is much shorter than the manufacturer’s claimed maximum range (which we don’t have for the APG-81 in surface mode).  So, our detection range is a mere fraction, and not a big one, of the maximum range.

Thus, the notion that a small, low power, fighter size radar can ‘see’ vast areas of ocean with 100% detection and identification is ludicrous. 

Logical Conclusion 1.  An F-35 APG-81 radar is going to provide a very limited view – the soda straw analogy.

Logical Conclusion 2.  Effective targeting is a two part challenge.  Detection is only half the problem and it’s the easy half.  Identification is the other half and requires that the F-35 approach the target much closer.  Thus, the suggestion that an F-35 can provide targeting from hundreds of miles away is utterly unrealistic.

Logical Conclusion 3.  Ship stealth will greatly reduce the detection/identification range.

Survivability.  In order for the F-35 to be an effective BAMS platform, it needs to be survivable long enough to find a target and track it to provide mid-course guidance for an attack.  That could, and likely will, require flying in enemy controlled air space for hours.  All the while, the enemy will be diligently searching the air space for just such activity.  Our F-35 will have to evade a multitude of all manner of sensors:  airborne patrols, ship radars, ESM, land radars, IRST, optical sensors, etc.  Yes, the F-35 is stealthy (from the front aspect – the sides and rear, not so much) but stealth isn’t magic.  Worse, the F-35 will be operating its own radar which further increases the chance of detection.  The odds on being able to loiter undetected in the vicinity of an enemy force in enemy air space are poor. 

Detection is a simple matter of statistics.  To illustrate, let’s say that a stealth aircraft has only a 1% chance of being detected in any given minute.  Hey, that’s great!  We have a 99% chance of not being detected.  Those are great odds, aren’t they?  However, over the course of an hour (sixty 1-minute intervals, each with a 1% chance of detection), that 1% chance of detection means a 46% chance of detection.  Oops.  Make it two hours and the chance of detection goes up to 71%.  Yikes.  Admittedly, this is a simplistic treatment of stealth and detection but it is, essentially, conceptually correct.  There is always a chance of detection and the longer the stealth aircraft loiters, the greater the chance of being found.  Thus, the idea that an F-35 can loiter and track targets and guide missiles is fundamentally suspect.  And, of course, the closer the F-35 loiters to the target, the greater the momentary odds of being detected.

Logical Conclusion 4.  Stealth aircraft WILL be found and the odds of being found increase with loiter time and proximity to the target.

Low Probability of Intercept (LPI) Radar.  The magic solution to detection and survivability, according to F-35 fanboys, is the fairy dust LPI radar.  F-35 proponents would have us believe that the LPI radar is undetectable while retaining maximum range and resolution.  Of course, this is simply untrue. 

LPI radars use a variety of methods to reduce the chance of the signal being intercepted (recognized in the background noise – the signal will always be intercepted).  These include frequency agility, pulse rate variation, etc. and, mainly, power reduction.  However, hand in hand with power reduction goes decreased detection range.

Make no mistake, LPI radars do, indeed, lower the chance of intercept (recognition) but do so at the expense of range and resolution.  Thus, our F-35, operating its APG-81 radar in LPI mode, will have the effective detection range (which we previously noted would be only a small fraction of the manufacturer’s claimed range) reduced even further.  This further reduction in detection range also means that the F-35 must get even closer to a target which, we previously noted, further decreases the F-35’s survivability.

Logical Conclusion 5.  LPI radar is not magic and will decrease detection range and survivability.

Area Search.  The key characteristic of BAMS is that it is a large area search function.  As such, the searching aircraft must, simplistically, pass back and forth repeatedly (a euphemism for whatever search pattern is employed) in order to effectively cover the desired area.  As we noted, given that detection range for targets of interest is going to be only a fraction of the claimed range, the searching aircraft will have to cover very small increments of the search area as opposed to sweeping vast areas in a single radar pulse, as F-35 proponents would have us believe.  This continual and extended back and forth searching, all the while with the radar broadcasting, is going to still further increase the chance of the F-35 being detected.  As noted in a Wiki article on LPI radar, a searching aircraft with LPI radar active will always be pointing its main lobe at some radar receiver. (1)

Having considered and applied all the preceding logic, it is logical to conclude that the F-35 cannot be an effective BAMS asset.  There is, in addition, one final bit of evidentiary logic that disproves the F-35 fanboy’s claims of effective BAMS and the simplicity of the logic is so self-evident that it needs no additional analysis:

Ultimate Logical Conclusion.  If all the claims for the F-35 broad area maritime surveillance capability were true, we’d have already eliminated AWACS, Triton, BAMS, E-2 Hawkeyes, etc. in favor of the F-35 with its APG-81 radar.

So, does the preceding mean that an F-35 is incapable of finding a target?  Of course not.  It just means that the F-35 is not a magical BAMS asset as so often claimed.  The F-35 is not the magical answer to the distributed lethality sensor problem.  The F-35 is not the magical answer to some notional sea control concept.  The F-35 is not a substitute for a carrier’s E-2 Hawkeye.

What can the F-35 do?  It can provide search over a limited area if we’re willing to risk the detection and loss of the aircraft.  Is it worth risking a $100M aircraft to do limited area search?  Well, that’s an operational question whose answer depends on what the potential benefits are in relation to the potential loss.

Where this can work best is when we have an idea where the target is and the search area – and risk - is, therefore, limited.  This is not as unlikely as it might sound.  Naval forces usually have at least a general idea of where the enemy is.  This was true throughout WWII and is true today.  A shared understanding of our own and the enemy’s strategies and objectives combined with various other sensor reports and intelligence are sufficient to offer general locations of enemy naval forces.  Thus, we do not need to search the entire ocean, we just need to search a moderately constrained area although prudence dictates sending search assets out in all directions just to be safe (the WWII carrier dawn 360 degree search by SBD Dauntlesses). 

We see then, that the F-35 is NOT a BAMS platform and would not be effective as such.  It can, however, be effective as a search/confirmation asset when we have a general idea of where to find enemy targets.


(1)Wikipedia, “Low-probability-of-intercept radar”, retrieved 20-Dec-2019,


  1. It would be interesting to know how much access the Chinese got to the APG-81 LPI information while they were riffling through the F-35 project files.

    LPI depends on software to a large extent, and knowing exactly what the radar actually does to reduce detection is very useful information.

    Its also worth noting that antenna design and receiver capabilities are as important as radiated power, in fact arguably more so in an LPI-centric radar. There has been some astonishing work done in the last 15 or so years on boosting discrimination ability in high-resolution, low power radar systems. You even see this in civilian marine radar today.

    That is not a disagreement with your post. I think your point is spot on. The F-35 is never going to be a do-all BAMS solution.

    1. There are two types of radar. Military radar which is very powerful and civilian radar which is weak/low power. If the APG-81 can mimic the civilian radars the enemy may not know
      what/who is radiating them.

    2. "If the APG-81 can mimic the civilian radars the enemy may not know what/who is radiating them."

      Come on, now. If we're at war, do you really think the enemy is going to believe that a civilian radar is innocently wandering around a war zone? In a war, would you be fooled by that?

    3. Heres a good one. Why have we funded 92 MQ-4 Tritons for surveillance when they are not stealthy? I guess we think fairy dust will do the trick.

    4. "Why have we funded 92 MQ-4 Tritons"

      Well, that's one of the [many] big questions I have for the Navy. What do they think they'll accomplish during a war? They can't be used anywhere near the 'front' because they're not survivable and are way too expensive. What does the Navy think they'll use them for? I have no idea.

    5. "MQ-4 Tritons"

      As a point of interest, the 2020 Navy budget docs list the MQ-4 as a quantity of 2 at a cost of $260M each. It's unclear to me whether the quantity of 2 refers to 2 aircraft or 2 systems which, as I understand it, a system consists of around 4 aircraft plus ground control apparatus. Regardless, that's a whole lot of money and not something we could afford to risk in front line surveillance.

    6. The MQ-4 Triton and P-8 might not entirely be as vulnerable as you suspect, @ComNavOps. There's that Russian assessment of AWACS systems a while back where they assessed the E-2 as having 450 km detection range against warships.

      For the sake of argument, assuming the surface search radars on the MQ-4 and P-8 have the same level of ability, that gives them a margin in which to operate against warships, because 450 km puts them outside the engagement envelope of naval SAMs, which top out in the 300~ km range. So the logical way is to use MQ-4s and P-8s for the broad search, and the VLO F-35s to get into the SAM envelope for a closer look.

      Of course, this all changes once China starts putting its own carriers and fighters to sea - 450km is a trivial distance for a fighter to cover in a short time, and MPAs are extremely soft targets against fighters.

    7. "There's that Russian assessment of AWACS systems a while back where they assessed the E-2 as having 450 km detection range against warships."

      I've never heard this. Do you have a link for this or is this another example of something you've heard from someone else?

    8. The specific reference is on page 57 of the pdf (page 55 for the magazine)

    9. Tidied up the post a little lol. Maybe next time I'll just link to David Khoo on SB whenever I'm using one of his posts as a source, lol :P

      The original source in Russian, from the "Armisky Sbornik" magazine of the Russian Ministry of Defense:

      And the translation:

      In the nomenclature, by Russian definition, surface target refers to a warship, differentiated from ground target (land vehicles, basically).

    10. A table from a Russian source with no apparent reference to a data source????? Pass. Come back when you have something at least semi-authoritative.

    11. Curious: what would you consider a credible source? I'd think an adversary's assessments ought to be closer to reality than the manufacturers claims.

    12. A credible source is one that says where it came from. I see nothing that says that source is from Russian military. I mean, think about it. Does the US military issue data on enemy weapon systems performance? Of course not! That's classified data. So, the source is almost certainly not actual Russian military data. That means the source and credibility is completely unknown.

      A credible source lists where the data came from, how it was obtained, specifics about the methodology, etc.

    13. Well, absent that, do you have any open source data to rebut the argument? At least he's shown data - my understanding of your position is that you believe that MPA cannot detect warships outside of SAM engagement rsnge?

      If you like, as a third party, I could touch base with some Russian-speaking friends and have them look into the article's methodology? It would take a long minute or two for that to happen though - I don't have enough vodka to bribe them to do it on christmas day, haha.

    14. I have zero obligation and even less interest in 'rebutting' an unsubstantiated number from a Russian source. That's about the very definition of unreliable. The salient point is that the actual detection/identification range for any radar is going to be a small fraction of the claimed maximum, as demonstrated in the post.

      I would remind you of the real world example we recently discussed in comments of the B-52 that penetrated to within ten miles or so of a carrier during an exercise with Hawkeyes and Tomcats looking for it.

    15. An example with a tired, combat-weary crew with zero fucks to give.

      ...which apparently does actually seem match up with the performance of USN crews, if the McCain and Fitzgerald collisions, so okay, that does pan out I guess.

    16. Anyway ComNavops if you don't believe the figures it's no skin off my teeth, it was just an idea put forth with a certain set of assumptions in play. I still think that thrust of my premise - that it is possible for a margin to exist where MPA and AEW can detect warships outside of the engagement envelope of SAM - is just as intellectually sound as your premise that the MPA is guaranteed to be detected and engaged by SAM. That whole issue of actual detection/identification range being shorter than the claimed maximum works both ways.

      We'll only know for sure who's right once a shooting war happens and all these details get declassified in maybe 50 years from now. *shrug*

      That said, I do think it's a little ironic and amusing that the USN's plan of using MPA and drones for broad area maritime surveillance to cue shooters is also being pursued by the PLAN, who look to be a lot more able to sucessfully pull that off than the USN - of course, it helps that they're deploying these sensor assets from airbases and flying within their own backyard, which does wonders for transit and patrol time, and if any Chinese MPAs or drones are shot down, well, their replacements don't have to fly across an ocean from the factory!

    17. "An example with a tired, combat-weary crew with zero fucks to give."

      The radar wasn't tired and a B-52 should have shown up like a blimp. The Hawkeye (or any radar) is not the infallible, all-seeing sensor that so many people want to believe it is.

      I can't believe I'm wasting time on this.

    18. "I still think that thrust of my premise ... is just as intellectually sound as your premise"

      No, it isn't. Not by a long shot. I laid out an extensive premise based on logic and what little actual data there is. You threw out a totally unsupported [gut feeling?] based on nothing and it flies in the face of logic.

      You're welcome to believe anything you want, no matter how stupid and unsupported, but when you put it in a comment it becomes my responsibility to decide whether it has any basis in fact or logic at all and … it doesn't. I'm bending over backward by not deleting it out of hand.

      This waste of time is over.

    19. Y'all are letting whatever personal acrimony you have bias your interactions. Grow up a little.

      ComNavOps maybe WG might be a pain in your ass, but he had a premise that was based on data. Now, maybe the data was faulty - like Pierre Sprey's modeling for the F-16 - but the methodology was sound.

      Do you speak Russian? Because to me it looks like you're simply rejecting a source out of hand, based on your dislike of a particular poster. Sure, it's his fault for tossing up a source in a language you dont speak, but like I said, I know people and i can have them check out the requirements you want, to determine how credible the source was.

      Yes, this is your house and you're the arbiter of fact here, and his data might be suspect, but give the man his due - his workings were sound.

    20. And WG maybe next time you wanna link a source, try something in a language we can all understand, please.

    21. And by the way, ComNavOps, that B-52 example goes both ways. Your assumption has always been that MPAs are gonna be easily detected - well, look how far in that B-52 penetrsted. Maybe P-8s aren't so helpless against Chinese warships then?

      They'll still be turbofucked once China has carriet groups and fighters at sea tho. The only way I can see BAMS working once that happens is with more nodal, shorter ranged zones of surveillance.

    22. "assumption has always been that MPAs are gonna be easily detected - well, look how far in that B-52 penetrsted."

      The story is that it did so by flying wavetop. While that might enable penetration, it would eliminate the ability to scan large areas which is, of course, the purpose of BAMS. Flying wavetop, sensors can only see a dozen miles to the horizon so, no, it doesn't really work both ways.

      If the only goal of a P-8 (or any MPA aircraft) is survival then, sure, fly wavetop but you won't see anything. If the goal is surveillance, there's no way around it - you have to fly fairly high and then you will be easily detected.

    23. Hmmm. True. Shoukd be Good for getting in range for prosecuting tho, that wavetop flying.

      You gotta wonder though, if MPAs and drones are so unsurvivable, why China is building so many of them, and why they're doing a lot of the dame things America is doing... are we truly so dumb? Or do they think they can use our playbook better than we can?

    24. " why China is building so many of them, ... do they think they can use our playbook better than we can?"

      I have no idea what their thinking is about that. However, they certainly have a different view about survivability then we do. Just as the Soviets used to believe that a large number of Bear search planes were worth the inevitable losses if they could find a carrier group, so too, may the Chinese believe that losses are perfectly acceptable if they can accomplish the mission through numbers.

      We, on the other hand, find losses undesirable and unacceptable. Their approach, if you can stomach the losses, is completely logical and effective. Our approach is, currently, ineffective. In the cold, harsh reality of combat, their approach will work and ours will not. We need a different approach, as I've described in various posts.

    25. China can do high volume deployments in their home waters, which changes the game completely when you don't have to drag your log tail 5000 miles along with you.

      If you radiate, you die. This has been true since the cold war if not earlier. You can absolutely identify a radiating threat (even without fancy computer aids) in a couple of sweeps. Even right down to individual units in some cases.

      Somewhere from less than one second to maybe ten seconds. I'm told the new stuff does it in way under a second.

      So as long as you're passive you're golden, but it you have to go active to look for targets you have a problem, particularly in these days of long range missiles.

      Its also worth remembering that wide-band brute-force jamming is very effective, and it takes very little energy to completely screw up a good radar return. Deception repeating is more effort, but in these days of DSPs its a heck of a lot easier than it used to be to break a track.

      And flying at wave tops burns a heck of a lot of fuel in a turbofan. And you aren't going to tank at wave-top, the tanker might get really grumpy, really fast! Lol

  2. If everything turns into a "fishing boat", doesnt it mean you need visual confirmation or at least use onboard EO/IR suite to confirm? Doesnt that reduce even more your "stand off" range and/or altitude? Not exactly what you want in your high performance jet, it flying around at low to medium altitude....which reduces range which means tanking, which means your LO goes out the window. Plus, let's face it, BAMS isnt very exciting BUT does require training and proficiency, how much time and training is conducted by jet fighter pilots to this? It sounds nice and all but it's at best a niche capability.

  3. Visual identification isn't going to work when at just 6000feet all you would be able to tell with a mark 1 eyeball is that it's a ship or ships.

    Isn't one of the reasons they used seaplanes as scouts in WW2 is because they are cheap and expendable if caught looking.

    A small cheap drone is the only thing you can risk to identify what you detected. But then you come up against the problem that the range and speed of small cheap drones is terrible.

    The only way to be to do what the British did during the Falklands war declare a maritime exclusion zone and sink anything in it once it's detected without worrying about identification.

    1. EZ worked for Falkland war because you were in the middle of nowhere. Look at Iran Iraq war during 80s, traffic didnt stop, tankers,boats were everywhere with Exocets flying all over the place. There's something like $1 trillion in goods moving around SCS, doubt it's all going to stop or avoid the area which means you need to consider hard visual ID conformation before firing or somebody going to have a messy PR day explaining why you sank 5 tankers or took out a bunch of fishing boats....

    2. Hmmm. This gets tricky as the whole SCS and beyond is crawling with fishing boats. Some of them pretty big. They're going to be there in wartime too as people still have to eat.

      So the Chinese organize their fishing fleet into Militias, with light armament like manpads and automatic weapons. And the ability to report ship and aircraft movements.

      Its yet one more problem a foreign power trying to operate in the vicinity of China will face.

    3. Just turn every fishing boat into an early warning advance scout...they only need minimal training and a radio.

      Hostilities never start all at once,guess how easy it would be to create a picture over weeks or months when every fishing boat reports what jets and when it sees them back to Beijing? See a pattern developing?

    4. Yup. In China, the lines blur between military and civilian. The Coast Guard is really an extension of the PLAN, and the fishing fleets have a quasi-military function to help the Coast Guard in hostilities. Every boat helps out the State. Its a civic duty.

    5. @NICO & @George: if you gaventhese fish boats MANPADs and autocannon, there's little they can do to threaten aircraft at search altitude. Plus, that assumes the USN is incompetent enough to allow fishing boat scouts to get in eyeball range...

      ...i'll give you guys that.

  4. Nice point that everything is a fishing boat - I presume thay mean like my grandfather's bass boat and not a factory fishing ship.


    "The only way to be to do what the British did during the Falklands war ... without worrying about identification

    Amusing you can avoid shooting your own.

    1. This would be a pretty typical fishing boat for the area.

  5. I will offer a rebuttal to your article which i often enjoy. I think your concept of broad area surveillance for the f35 is not how I see it being used. I have not seen anything published that points to this role at all. I see the f35 providing forward targeting information to other forces that carry out attacks. As you have mentioned, they will know approximately where the enemy is likely to be.

    As you probably know the apg 81 radar is more than your classic radar. It can be used to listen for emissions without radiating. The problem here for the Chinese destroyer (the quarry) is to whether to use its radar. Does it turn it on? If it turns its radar on, its position will be quite easy to determine. If it leaves it off, then the f35 will not be detected. The f35 however has a good IRST system. If we assume that it is as good as the f18 set, then search and targeting is in excess of 100 miles on a fighter sized target. A destroyer is bigger than a fighter. The problem for the quarry is that either way it will be detected by the f35 without necessarily being able to detect the f35.

    Logical conclusion 1. The f35 will detect the Chinese destroyer and provide targeting data without necessarily being detected.

    Relaying information/targeting data to other forces. One of the useful features about AESA radars is that they are more than just a radar but can act as a communication node. The radar can point its energy in the direction of interest. In terms of communication , the radar can point just enough energy in the direction of its allied forces to get the targeting data to other platforms. As the radio energy is not directed at the Chinese destroyer, it is unlikely to pick up the transmission.

    Logical conclusion 2. The targeting data will be relayed to the platforms that will be tasked with carrying out the strike. The f35 is unlikely to be detected due to the nature of its advanced AESA radar as a communications tool.

    1. I hope I have shown you how an f-35 can act as a targeting/surveillance platform.

      This is how I see an engagement proceeding.

      F 35 detects destroyer. Relays targeting information to two f-18s who are launched from the carrier with a total loadout of 4 LRASM and up to 16 subsonic decoys (ADM-160). The f35 as it is reaching the end of its patrol is replaced with another f35. It fires two joint strike missiles at the destroyer. The f-35 is outside the detection range of the destroyer (even if it has its radar on). The JSM is stealthy and is programmed to hit the ships radar and the other missile hits the destroyer at the waterline (as they are programmed to do). The Chinese will detect the missile at about 16km or about 50 seconds to impact. They defeat the missiles with their CIWS and short range missiles. Within minutes another 20 subsonic missiles arrive from the f18 strike. 16 are subsonic decoys. 4 are LRASM. The number of potential targets overwhelms the defensive ability of the destroyer. It is hit with at least two LRASM with their large warheads. One LRASM is programmed to hit the missile magazine and sets off many fires and explosions. The other is programmed to hit the engine room and disables power to the whole ship. Many decoys are shot down as they are better targets, Some of the decoys provide electronic counter measures to disrupt the defensive systems. (ADM-160 MALD). So i guess the USA still has an offensive electronic countermeasure system.

      Logical conclusion. 3. Chinese destroyer will be severely disabled if not sunk. A follow up strike of two f18's with 1000 kg LGB., will send it to the bottom if not already sunk.

      Logical conclusion 4. Using stealthy subsonic antiship missiles allows you to use cheap subsonic decoys. There is no such thing as a supersonic decoy for a supersonic anti ship missiles like Brahmos. The supersonic decoy is so large costly to produce that you are better off just firing another missile.

      A flight of four aircraft can easily overwhelm a solitary Chinese destroyer.

      Logical conclusion 5. An aircraft carrier with a strike wing of F35C and F18F has an offensive capability. The aircraft carrier is not just a self licking ice cream.

      Nothing in this scenario requires an intact GPS system. All the weapons systems have onboard high quality Inertial navigation systems.

    2. "A flight of four aircraft can easily overwhelm a solitary Chinese destroyer."

      I see this as wishful thinking that is likely badly misjudging the threat scenarios. You aren't dealing with a single Chinese destroyer any more than you are dealing with a single US destroyer.

      The Chinese are going to have numbers. They are building like crazy, and a SCS scrap is going to be within Chinese air force coverage.

      I also have concerns about VHF/UHF radar that may put a serious dent in stealth effectiveness, at least until its taken out. Right now nobody knows, but all the gaming I've seen has used small scale engagements which feels like a big mistake.

    3. @Anon. Problem is the detection ranges you are using are probably a bit generous. I don't think the ranges are for surface or naval targets, all the ranges I can find are generally A2A, usual fighter above 30,000 feet looking for other fighters at high altitude. You'll see head on detection range at 60km and 100km with opposing fighter using AB on a stern escape...not sure a ship will be that easy to find, it's not necessarily size as much as IR signature, nothing onboard a modern military ship emits like a jet fighter AB. I would easily halve the detection range, probably still generous.

      "...IRST21 is a multi-function sensor system that has been designed to provide long-range detection and tracking of airborne threats in radar-denied environments. It is a passive, long-range sensor system that uses infrared search and track technology to detect and track heat coming off the engines of enemy aircraft. The IRST21 autonomously detects and tracks airborne targets at long ranges, and can merge the data with the fighters’ other sensors to provide a multi-dimensional view of threats." Just found this on a defense website. It has long range BUT it's optimized for A2A, not sure how well it performs looking for ships PLUS it pretty much needs to be all tied together with the onboard systems to provide a good picture, not sure just using IRST or just radar works, I think you can't really turn off one system or the other and still expect good'll get a picture but far from complete SA.

      I don't know if the Chinese destroyers have IRST or EOs themselves, actually, it might be just as easy for them to spot an F35 in the background sky then it is for an F35 to spot a ship so it might be a wash in terms of detection.

      Finally, this scenario assumes it's nice and shiny day, if it cloudy or just some overcast, performances of IRST and EOs are seriously degraded so everybody might be back to using radar....

    4. "I see the f35 providing forward targeting information to other forces that carry out attacks."

      This is exactly what I've described and is the purpose of the F-35 BAMS concept. You've exactly repeated the premise of the post!

    5. "The f35 however has a good IRST system. … The problem for the quarry is that either way it will be detected by the f35 without necessarily being able to detect the f35."

      So, you're assuming that a Chinese destroyer has no electro-optical system of its own and that no enemy aircraft has IRST? That seems a bit one-sided, don't you think?

    6. "The f35 will detect the Chinese destroyer and provide targeting data without necessarily being detected."

      This is optimism run amok! Well, you're welcome to your opinion. Given that level of unrealistic optimism, I won't bother addressing any other aspects.

    7. It is not unrealistic optimism. I would like you to reply with logic and well thought out reply to the scenario. Ad hominon attacks is a sign you have no counter. The f35 is designed to do just this scenario. Its detection range is less than 50km against good quality radars. Its targeting range has been shown to be over 100km against a non stealth target. For those discussing uhf/hf radar. the vessel simply gives its position away and the f35 can sit 200km away and relay targeting data.

    8. "For those discussing uhf/hf radar. the vessel simply gives its position away and the f35 can sit 200km away and relay targeting data."

      I expect these radars to be on the islands and the mainland. The antennas are required are quite large. It would also not be out of the question to deploy on civilian ships or barges.

    9. Chinese and Russia make use of the longer wave band radars, the great advantage is that it negates the fifth generation fighters stealth small RCS capability, F-22/F-35s. On the latest Type 052D/E destroyers Chinese fit an updated large bedstead VHF radar, HJ-JM2, ~1.3m wavelength, limitation with the long waveband VHF it has a range resolution of ~900m, meter long wave radars can only see roughly an object's general direction, not its exact location - long range surveillance is better at lower frequencies and precision tracking is better at higher frequencies.

      The long waveband can also avoid attacks from anti-radiation missiles due to the waves wide beams, because such missiles cannot carry antenna large enough to track them. In response to Chinese and Russian low frequency radars USN developing the NGJ/LWJ pod for the EA-F18 Growler, IOC planned 2024/2025?

      Chinese claim with their new large land based longwave radars they have the first practical meter wave sparse array synthetic impulse and aperture radar, with multiple transmitting and receiving antennas tens of meters high, scattered in a range of tens to hundreds of meters they can continuously cover the sky as the radar receives echoes from all directions that this significantly enhances the radar's ability to track an aerial target, pinpointing the stealth aircraft's exact coordinates by synthesizing parameters and data gathered by the radar under the support of advanced algorithms to give accuracy capability of guiding long-range knock offs of the Russian S400 anti-aircraft missiles and the very long range BVR PL-15 AAM. Claims might be believable considering stealth tech now a generation plus old and so research into negating its operational use well understood.

  6. Do you think that they just may of tested the f35 in such a scenario? The advantage of having an f35 is that you can try and detect it using your best?naval irst. Can the us navy detect it.

  7. Just a couple of observations going thru published info on Triton, Navy Global Hawk version. Interesting to note that even though it's made and job to fly high altitude observation, its structure was reinforced and wing deicing was installed so it could fly lower and get in closer which tells me you just cant do high altitude ISR of ships and consider it a done job, you need to get in close and low! Looks like even USN feels like its necessary? or better? to keep Triton at high altitude and use new P8s to get least for now or until I hear otherwise, seems that's how USN is working it out now. I guess you still need a manned jet to maybe deal with all the variables of the mission?

    Come to think of it now, wasnt this how USN was operating when Iran shot down a GH, there was a navy patrol plane around at lower altitude which Iran was also aware of? Tells me you need a lot more standoff range for all these ISR planes or maybe need fighter escorts? Nobody knows yet but how many F35s would u need to cover the same area for hours instead of 1 GH and-or P8? Got a factor that in too, highly doubt 1 F35 would do the same job for the same amount of TIME as GH or dedicated manned ISR platform....

  8. Completely unrelated news:

    Looks like new SecNav has put everyone on notice....interesting that we haven't heard much about the week long cruise in late October, maybe the results weren't bad but not great either?

    1. "SecNav has put everyone on notice"

      No. No he hasn't. At least not according to that article. He simply stated a timeline that he wants. The last SecNav also stated a timeline that he wanted and that didn't happen and no one paid a price. If you want to put someone 'on notice', you lay out the goals AND THE ASSOCIATED CONSEQUENCES. The article lists no consequences for failure to meet the timeline. Without consequences, it's just wishful thinking.

  9. More unrelated news:

    Not sure if this is such a bad thing, losing 4 LCSs sounds bad when USN is trying to make numbers BUT this might be the only time when losing hulls actually INCREASES combat efficiency!

  10. This is rather late to the party. Whilst the capability of the APG-81 is classified, there is a general body of knowledge as to its detection range. AWST has reported it as in excess of 210 km against a 1m2 target. Using radar range equation one can extrapolate to mean it has a detection range of 650 kms to 1180 kms against a 100 m2 to 1000 m2 RCS target. This is what I would expect a warship RCS profile to be. A APG-81 operating in LPD/LPI mode does not diminish its detection range. One of the technology to achieve low LPD is the application of DSS in the broadcast. Direct spread spectrum is basically the ability to spread the single pulse across the whole frequency spectrum in which the X band operates and that could be as much as 3 GHz. Effectively the power is spread thinly across a wide spectrum making it extremely difficult to detect the broadcast. Additionally there are other sensors as part of the F-35 sensor fusion package that acts collectively. The ANQ-239 is reportedly able to pick up passively an emission in excess of 350 kms away and is able to geolocate that emission with sufficient fidelity for targeting purpose.

    The main downside IMO of an F-35 against a typical ISR asset is its lack of endurance comparatively.

    Finally there is a penetrating VLO ISR asset that likely can provide targeting data and has gone operational last year and that is the RQ-180. This was reported by AWST.

  11. InSAR. Interferometric SAR.
    Complex Targets have not one but multiple centroids which can be winkled out by using baselines which measure the phase overlaps between them as a length between features.
    ISAR. Inverse SAR.
    Works on doppler amplitudes instead of phase but uses a similar precept of creating multiple small, acceleration cells to respond to wave action rocking a target through a prime centroid and allow secondaries to peak through, denoting stacks, masts, deckhouses and so on.
    AESA, because it can generate multiple submode 'spotlights', it should be good at all of these, provided it can pull a 20-40 square meter 'fishing boat' RCS from the surrounding wave harmonic.
    EOTS can differentiate individual windows in a hotel from 43nm away. I would expect an imbedded MSS/IWS in a two of three naval variant jet fighters to do better, if only because the JSM is a 110nm ranged missile and LRASM is something like 200nm equivalent. With a 143kW/7m APY-9 having a surface detection threshold of 450km and the 2m/50kW APY-10 some 350km. It would stand to reason that a 15-20kW, 1m, APG-81 should be able extrapolatable to a first order guess, based on antenna gain and ERP numbers with similar generational capability. I would assume that MSS/SMTI would be something like 90nm. And MSS/SMTT about 80nm with IWS 'SEA-2' no less than 60nm. Because the APG-67 on the Tigershark could achieve 47nm and 40nm with a 27" planar mechanical array.


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