Actually, even if carrying the missiles on the underwing pylons would cost the JSF its stealthiness, the F-35 can carry up to six (2 in the internal bays, 4 on the external pylons) JSMs; previously, only 2+2 were believed to be theoretically carried by the 5th generation multirole radar evading plane,
Derived from the Naval Strike Missile (NSM), the anti-ship weapon, featuring long range, low radar cross section and high maneuverability, speed and accuracy, will undergo a Critical Design Review in summer 2013: the CDR will confirm whether the design is mature enough to be able to continue the integration on the F-35.
The brand new Joint Strike Fighters reached the 58th Fighter Squadron on May 6, 2013. The difference between the mentioned plane and the older ones is the fact that it already incorporates the Block 2A avionics software and will start flying in 2-3 weeks.
Image Credit: Lockheed Martin
26 F-35As (including 2 spares) are going to be a part of the Squadron in Eglin by the beginning of 2014. Some of them will support a training squadron that will be stationed at Luke AFB and is scheduled to receive its first JSFs in January 2014.
The new software introduces interesting capabilities.
The purpose of the device is to detect and track the enemy aircraft and provide early warning messages about the launched missiles.
Nevertheless it is not integrated with the on-helmet-sight yet even if it allows displaying weather info.
In spite of the latest upgrade, the F-35A is still restricted. It can’t conduct IMC flights, night flights, aerobatics (have you ever seen JSF on an Air Show?!) and formation take-offs and landings. Even if it is in a post-prototype stage of development the F-35 is still not a fully capable fighters, and it evokes mixed feelings among the Lockheed Martin employees, as The Aviationist reported earlier.
However, the Block 2A software extends the F-35′s capabilities, because it lets the pilot simulate the launch of AIM-120 missiles. Still, the g-limit for the airframe is 5,5 G that is quite ridiculous, taking into account the objectives the JSF is designed to face. Hopefully the g-limit will be lifted soon.
The training ground attack missions are practically the only thing JSF feels good at, as it allows for dropping laser guided GBU-12‘s and GBU-31 JDAMs.
The 58th Fighter Squadron already operates 9 F-35A Block 1B, which were used to train USAF instructors and test pilots. The ultimate number of trained pilots is to reach 45.
The initial problems with the Lockheed-Martin fighter jet are not an issue for some of the customers. Just recently Israel has transferred $20,1 million for the jets that they are going to buy. The money is to fund additional 2 planes to the 6 already existing in the order. They are to be a part of LRIP – Low Rate Initial Production.
Out of the remaining planes of LRIP VIII (45 examples) 29 are to stay in the US (19 F-35A’s – for USAF and 6 VTOL F-35B’s for the Marine Corps and 4 F-35C’s for US Navy). The remaining 19 planes are to be delivered to the customers as follows: 4 F-35B’s for UK, 2 F-35A for Norway, 4 F-35A for Japan and two abovementioned examples for Israel.
2011 has been an annus horribilis for information security, and aviation has not been an exception to this rule: not only in 2011 the corporate networks of several aviation and aerospace industries have been targeted by digital storms (not a surprise in the so-called hackmageddon) but, above all, last year will be probably remembered for the unwelcome record of two alleged hacking events targeting drones (“alleged” because in the RQ-170 Sentinel downed in Iran episode, several doubts surround the theory according to which GPS hacking could have been the real cause of the crash landing).
But, if Information Security professionals are quite familiar with the idea that military contractors are primary and preferred targets of the current Cyberwar as the following infographic shows, realizing that malware can be used to target a drone is still considered an isolated episode, and even worse, the idea of a malware targeting the multirole Joint Strike Fighter is still something hard to accept.
However, things are about change dramatically. And quickly.
The reason is simple: the latest military and civil airplanes are literally full of electronics, which play a primary role in managing avionics, onboard systems, flight surfaces, communcation equipment and armament.
For instance an F-22 Raptor owns about 1.7 millions od line of codes , an F-35 Joint Strike Fighter about 5.7 millions and a Boeing 787 Dreamliner about 6.5 millions. Everything with some built in code may be exploited, therefore, with plenty of code and much current and future vulnerabilities, one may not rule out a priori that these systems will be targeted with specific tailored or generic malware for Cyberwar, Cybercrime, or even hacktivism purposes.
Unfortunately it looks like the latter hypothesis is closer to reality since too often these systems are managed by standard Windows operating systems, and as a matter of fact a generic malware has proven to be capable to infect the most important U.S. robots flying in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Libya, and Indian Ocean: Predator and Reaper Drones.
As a consequence, it should not be surprising, nor it is a coincidence, that McAfee, Sophos and Trend Micro, three leading players for Endpoint Security, consider the embedded systems as one of the main security concerns for 2012.
Making networks more secure (and personnel more educated) to prevent the leak of mission critical documents and costly project plans (as happened in at least a couple of circumstances) will not be aviation and aerospace industry’s information security challenge; the real challenge will be to embrace the security-by-design paradigm and make secure and malware-proof products ab initio.
While you wait to see if an endpoint security solution becomes available for an F-35, scroll down the image below and enjoy the list of aviation and aerospace related cyber attacks occurred since the very first hack targeting the F-35 Lightning II in 2009.
Of course aviation and aerospace industries are not the only targets for hackers and cybercriminals. So, if you want to have an idea of how fragile our data are inside the cyberspace, have a look at the timelines of the main Cyber Attacks in 2011 and 2012 (regularly updated) at hackmageddon.com. And follow @pausparrows on Twitter for the latest updates.
On Feb. 16, 2012, an F-35A aircraft from Edwards AFB, California, flew for the first time with external weapons.
Although no weapons were delivered during the sortie, the payload of the Joint Strike Fighter’s Conventional Takeoff and Landing (CTOL) variant in this test mission included two AIM-9X air-to-air missiles on the outboard wing stations, two internal 2,000-pound GBU-31 GPS-guided bombs and two AIM-120 AMRAAMs (Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missiles) inside the two internal weapon bays.
The F-35 had also four external pylons that can carry 2,000-lb air-to-ground weapons.
The 5th Generation multirole fighter is designed to carry up to 18,000 pounds on 10 weapon stations featuring four weapon stations inside two weapon bays, for maximum stealth capability, and an additional three weapon stations on each wing.
Image credit: Lockheed Martin by Paul Weatherman
Along with the B STOVL (Short Take Off Vertical Landing) variant, the CTOL one was selected by Italy to replace the Air Force’s Tornado and AMX bombers.