Military Embedded Systems

F-35 DAS and AESA radar from Northrop Grumman detect, track, and target ballistic missiles


June 28, 2012

John McHale

Editorial Director

Military Embedded Systems

LINTHICUM, Md. The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter AN/AAQ-37 Distributed Aperture System (DAS) and AN/APG-81 Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar system from Northrop Grumman Corp. recently detected ballistic missiles during a demonstration in coordination with NASA the U.S. Air Force.

The systems were demonstrated while flying on Northrop Grumman's BAC1-11 testbed aircraft. The demonstration leveraged NASA's Science Mission Directorate-sponsored Anomalous Transport Rocket Experiment launch operation.

Northrop Grumman demonstrated these ballistic missile tracking modes with Only minor modifications to the baseline F-35 DAS and radar software was necessary for these ballistic tracking modes, says Jeff Leavitt, Northrop Grumman combat avionic systems business unit vice president. "Since DAS is always staring simultaneously in every direction, an operator does not have to point the sensor in the direction of a target to gain a track. The F-35 pilot could continue the primary mission while the sensors automatically observe ballistic missile threats."

The DAS autonomously detected all five rockets, which were launched in rapid succession, then tracked them from their initial launch till past the second stage burnout. The system when on the F-35 provides passive spherical awareness, simultaneously detecting and tracking missiles and aircraft in every direction, and providing visual imagery for day/night targeting and navigation purposes.

The company is also looking at how the existing DAS technology could aid other mission areas, such as irregular warfare operations, Leavitt says.

The APG-81 AESA radar provided acquisition and weapons quality tracks independently, as well as via pointing cues from DAS for expedited and extended range target acquisition. Each track was maintained from initial acquisition until the rocket exited the field of view of the radar. The AN/APG-81 AESA radar can perform a range of air-to-air and air-to-surface capabilities along with electronic warfare and Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance functions (ISR).


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