An F-35A recently requested support from an artillery unit assigned to the US Army 1st Armored Division for fire support to neutralise an anti-air threat for the first time.
According to the US Air Force, at just below 30,000 feet in the air, and about 30 miles away, a US Air Force F35A Lightning II pilot can spot anti-air threats that would threaten their safety.
“With it being too dangerous to engage, while continuing to maintain his stealth, the pilot can now call on the US Army’s artillery and missile support to destroy the threat. This very scenario is what the 1st Armored Division Artillery and the US Air Force trained on in the first week of November in the desert in Dona Ana, New Mexico, during Joint Strike Fighter Integration testing.”
“Today we are working with the Air Force and we are testing the ability of the U.S. Army’s field artillery to receive messages from an F-35, a 5th generation fighter jet, for possible fire missions,” said Maj. William O’Neil, a Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania native and the fire support officer for the division.
“While we are using canons today, the M109A6 Paladins, the goal is how we integrate a Tomahawk Cruise Missile and other missile units at the division level into Joint Fires.”
The key to the exercise was transmitting the pilot’s message through different communications networks – some of which weren’t designed to synchronise with different military service communication networks. Rehearsing the routing for the call of fire messages gives the force redundancy and options for cross talk.
The US Air Force say that the integration exercise tested ways that pilots can stay out of harm’s way while using other service’s assets efficiently to eliminate aircraft denial weapon systems, of which adversaries may very well have.
“The F-35 has proven to be a valuable asset in a denied environment, however the work that was done has opened the door for many other airborne players to participate and help the fight,” said Maj. Portue.
“Utilizing all firepower available in a theater is mandatory for the success of our forces in any theater. Utilizing the strengths of each asset is key for both survivability and lethality. This is a tactical-level event that helps to further refine our joint integration between the services as we leverage new technologies to get after multi-domain operations. This is one small piece of that as we move forward, which is identifying which capabilities work and how we can actually use those capabilities in peer to peer planning.”