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.”

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Geoffrey Hicking

This nothing new- in WW1 a French pilot called in a Zone Call on an archie battery that was worrying him and was court martialled for it.

Daniele Mandelli

If SDSR 2020 is serious, this sort of thing should be looked at for the RA.

Difficult, considering the mess the RA is in.

BV Buster

I completely agree, the drop shorts are a shell of their former selves. Ha Ha Ha, I’m here all night.

On a serious note, I think the RA would just be happy to have a working, competitive gun system right now, or better still a half decent ammo stock.


Harry Bulpit

What the RA needs before anything else is organisation and purpose. To many battery’s and even regiments without a single artillery piece.


Mate that doesn’t matter, as the RA brings n the most varied capabilities second only to the RE. STA Bty, MAMBA Bty, BASE ISTAR Bty, ASP Bty, Exactor Bty, AD Regiments x 2, Desert Hawk Regt and Watchkeeper Regt. All capabilities without a barrel in sight, and all essential but still not enough. But I do agree that the RA still does not have enough Gun Regts, and modern munitions. Issues which my bro does remind me all the time!

Harry Bulpit

Obviously besides the AD and other missile related forms of artillery. Shouldn’t all the other tasks be done by other corps? Such as intelligence and AAC. I understand the usage of man portable drones in forward observation battery’s. But when it’s a drone that needs an airfield to operate from, I think it would be better placed with a unit that specialise in the domaine.


The RA are Specialists in UAVs. It isn’t often that cross pollination from AD to Field to STA or Precision Strike occurs. The Gunners would require more barrels if the Brits were to operate alone, however, we are now fully committed to providing high end assets to Coalitions which many of our Allies cannot afford or lack the skillsets to operate. The RN and RAF provide Deep Strike so there isn’t a requirement for the Army to waste limited money on it. The simple truth is an Army Commander will not sacrifice RA UAVs because he cannot rely on the… Read more »

Daniele Mandelli

I think it is a legacy thing Harry.

When the army got 3 regiments of new MLRS way back with 1 ( BR) Corps, and needed drones to target the battlespace deep in the Warsaw Pacts rear for the MLRS to obliterate.

We had the Phoenix drones. And the RA operated them as they were the ones using MLRS.

BV Buster

It seems the RA are jacks of all trades masters of none. some of the lesson learned from Ukraine are that 152mm caused massive casualties, way more than we have estimated when wargaming. Its great we can see the enemy, detect its shells and mortars but not have anything for counter battery fire. It seems, like across defence as a whole, that kinetic effect comes second or third in a list of priorities, Ajax (no ATGM), Arty concentrating on ISTAR rather then Guns/rockets, Inf removing LMG, CR2 only just getting a decent gun, Ships with no anti-ship capability, Boxer only… Read more »


Spot on BV


Not really mate as all the other tasks are all part of “find, fix, strike” as MAMBA is about locating, sound ranging and counter Bty, Base ISTAR is a camera capability to locate and pin point targets, exactor is mid range strike, STA is all about what it says on the tin, and Watchkeeper UAVs are mid to deep target location, with DH UAV close. And let’s not forget when you have all these assets operating in one air space (including fast air, our Mortars etc) the RA lads de-conflict all involved and having less people and command structure in… Read more »


Hi Airborne,

I think the situation the RA find itself in today is symptematic of much of the UK Armed Forces at the moment. Lots of high end capabilities but only in very limited numbers.

Sadly, I tink we are getting close to the point of either giving up some of these capabilities and focusing on fewer key capabilities or we accept that we need to put the Armed Forces back on a proper sound basis and build on what we have.

I so hope it is the latter. The army has been particularly neglected in recent years.