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Examine advanced electronics for stealth, comms in F-35

Posted: 23 Nov 2015     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:F-35  aircraft  avionics system  Radar Altimeters  ADC 

SINGCARS is a Combat Net Radio (CNR)that uses 25kHz channels in the VHF FM band from 30 to 87.975MHz with single-frequency as well as frequency hopping capability which hops at 111 times per second.

VMF 220D is designed to "communicate with anything," VMF MIL-STD-188-220 enables Combat-Net Radio (CNR) modems to interface to existing voice radios in military aircraft, manpacks, and mobile ground stations to transmit and receive digital data.

Identification Friend-or-Foe (IFF) Interrogate/Transponder
IFF is an identification system designed for command and control. It enables interrogation systems to identify aircraft, vehicles or forces as friendly and to determine their bearing and range from the interrogator.

Link 16
Link 16 is a military tactical data exchange network and if part of the family of Tactical Data Links. This link allows the exchange of a tactical picture in near-real time. This protocol will also support text messages, imagery data and two channels of digital voice (2.4 kbit/s and/or 16 kbit/s in any combination).

The design is a TDMA-based secure and jam-proof high speed digital link in the 960-1,215MHz RF band. This is a line-of-sight communication. Information is typically passed at data rates of either 31.6, 57.6, or 115.6 kbit/s.

The information is coded in J-series messages that are binary data words with well-defined meanings.

Joint Precision and Approach Landing System (JPALS)
JPALS provides advanced air traffic management, approach, and precision landing capability for military air operations. It is interoperable FAA, military, and international air navigation services with global military/civil interoperability.

The Multifunction Advanced Data Link waveform is an advanced communications link that can send information securely between F-35s. In 2013 a successful flight test passed data between two F-35s which created a situational awareness picture on each of the F-35 cockpit displays.

Other functions on the aircraft are GUARD, Survival Radio, TADIL-J, JVMF/VMF (K-Series), RAD ALT, ILS, TACAN, ICLS, JPALS, Voice messaging, Voice Recognition, Maintenance intercom, and Voice synthesis.

Tactical Digital Information Link-J (TADIL-J)
This is a system of standardised "J" series messages which are known by NATO as Link 16. This protocol was designed as an improved data link to exchange near real-time (NRT) information. It is essentially a communication, navigation, and identification system supporting an information exchange between tactical command, control, communications, computers, and intelligence (C4I) systems.

The radio transmission and reception part of this system is the Multifunctional Information Distribution System (MIDS). These terminals use high capacity UHF, line of sight (LOS), frequency-hopping to provide secure and jam-resistant voice and digital data transmission and operate on a Time Division Multiple Access (TDMA) protocol.

JVMF/VMF (K-Series)
Variable Message Format (VMF) is a communication protocol for communicating tactical military information. The VMF message body is composed of "K" Series messages.

Radar Altimeters are usually an all-solid-state 0 to 50,000+ ft. FM/CW radar altimeter system typically operating at a nominal frequency of 4.3GHz. It consists of a receiver/transmitter, antennas and indicators with inherent low probability of intercept and anti-jam capability as well as conventional analogue and digital outputs for aircraft avionic systems. They usually have a Low Probability of Intercept (LPI) achieved by control of the power output so that the transmitted power is the least amount required for signal acquisition and tracking. The system automatically adjusts the required transmitter power to maintain normal system operation over varying terrain, aircraft altitude and attitudes.

An FM/CW technology is usually used and can operate over a 100MHz bandwidth providing inherent spread-spectrum capability which further reduces detectability.

An Instrument Landing System (ILS) is a ground-based instrument approach system that provides precision lateral and vertical guidance to an aircraft approaching and landing on a runway, using a combination of radio signals.

Tactical Air Navigation (TACAN) is a polar-coordinate type radio air navigation system that provides an aircrew with distance information, from distance measuring equipment (DME), and bearing (azimuth) information.

An Instrument Carrier Landing Systems (ICLS) is the predecessor to JPALS

The Joint Precision Approach and Landing System (JPALS) is a differential GPS that will provide a rapidly deployable, mobile, adverse weather, adverse terrain, day-night, and survivable precision approach and landing capability that supports joint service, civil, and multinational interoperability.

Software-Defined Radio (SDR)
The SDR employs reconfigurable RF hardware and processors to run proprietary software that produces the waveforms needed for a multitude of frequencies and protocols (Ten channels with more than 40 waveforms and 30 conformal antennas support a multi-level security system and is Joint Tactical Radio System (JTRS)-compatible.. The avionics system shares a common power system, common RF hardware and common digital processors.

AESA Radar system
Now let's take a look at the advanced radar system on the Lightning:

The AESA Radar (AN/APG-81)
The F-35 has advanced electronic warfare abilities to find and track enemy forces, jam radars and disrupt any attacks. The AESA radar (AN/APG-81) from Northrop Grumman (figure 4). Advanced receiver and exciter modules create extreme waveform agility and are mounted behind the AESA as seen in figure 4.

Figure 4: Northrop Grumman's AN/APG-81 AESA radar enables F-35 pilots to engage air and ground targets at long distances as well as allowing for situational awareness for enhanced survivability. (Image courtesy of Northrop Grumman).

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