on Nov. 7, 2019, during the Joint Strike Fighter integration exercise U.S. Army ground artillery units recently conducted a test in which they destroyed a mock air defense system based on targeting information from a U.S. Air Force F-35A Joint Strike Fighter.
The tactic allowed the joint force to destroy a mock threat while allowing the F-35 to remain in its most stealthy mode and not reveal itself by engaging it directly.
This particular scenario was part of a larger Joint Strike Fighter Integration experiment that took place at one of the Doña Ana Ranges in New Mexico, which are part of the Fort Bliss Training Center that is headquartered in neighboring Texas.
M109A6 Paladin self-propelled 155mm howitzers from the Army’s 1st Armored Division Artillery and an F-35A from the Air Force’s 59th Test and Evaluation Squadron took part in the test, along with a host of supporting units.
As F-35s have entered operational service across the U.S. Marine Corps, Air Force, and Navy, the U.S. military as a whole has been exploring a variety of new concepts of operation for integrating the stealth jets into regular operations.
“The F-35 is a very capable aircraft executing against numerous targets. We can use its sensors to identify multiple targets, and we can use the Army to take them out,” U.S. Air Force Captain Charles Humphrey, assigned to Air Combat Command acting as the exercise director for the test, said in a subsequent statement. “We can start shaping the battlefield faster because when we start fighting bigger opponents, we are needing to be able to do that.”
This is a concept of operations that could be extremely valuable for U.S. forces in a future large-scale conflict against an opponent with dense integrated air defense network and one that could easily expand to include other assets, including unmanned aircraft and new, longer-range artillery and tactical missile systems.
What the Army and the Air Force have now done in New Mexico is take this one step forward and show how an air-ground team can work together to perform the suppression of enemy air defenses/destruction of enemy air defenses (SEAD/DEAD) mission, something that aircraft have primarily done in the past.
This could offer the U.S. military an extremely important new capability for dealing with these threats depending on the exact situation.