F-35 could detect, track and possibly shoot down ballistic missiles by 2025
Head of the U.S. Missile Defense Agency, Lt. Gen. Samuel Greaves, told the Senate appropriations subcommittee on defense that he expects the F-35 to be capable of detecting, tracking and, possibly, even shooting down ballistic missiles by 2025.
He further added that “I’d say six to seven years to essentially work out the Concept of Operations and develop the capabilities — whether it’s sensor-based or a new fast missile that’s hung on the bottom of an F-35 for the BMDS Ballistic Missile Defense mission — integrate those capabilities, test them, and deliver them into a theater of operations,
However given that the AIM-120 AMRAAM isn’t designed to chase an ICBM into space, it would have a narrow window to kill an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) before it escaped the atmosphere.
For this reason US might develop a new “fast missile.”
“Our job is to look outside of the classic missile defense system” — Patriot, THAAD, GBI — “and look for sensors and shooters that would be able to contribute when integrated into the BMDS, and we see F-35 as one,”
This is the first time a senior official says how long it might take to incorporate F-35s into missile defense. Noteworthy the U.S. military has tested out the concept in the past: in 2014, an F-35 infrared sensor installed on a surrogate aircraft successfully tracked a launch and transmitted tracking data over the military’s standard Link-16 network.
In 2016, a U.S. Marine Corps (USMC) F-35B detected and tracked a missile, then passed the data over the Navy’s NIFC-CA network to the Aegis missile defense system, which shot the threat down.