U.S. Naval Aviation and Weapons Development in Review

The Air Force, Marine Corps, and Navy operate a joint training facility as the 33rd Fighter Wing at Eglin Air Force Base (AFB), Florida, to train pilots and maintenance crews on the three F-35 types. The Air Force has the 58th Fighter Squadron for the F-35A. The Marines have operated the F-35B with VMFAT-501 since its reactivation in 2010, and the Navy reactivated VFA-101 on 1 May 2012, flying the F-35C.

Among the problems addressed in 2012 were shortcomings in the helmet-mounted display. Foregoing an aircraft-mounted heads-up display, and instead projecting flight, weapons, and sensor data on the helmet’s visor, is a huge step forward. One of the problems being addressed is latency—the lag from when the data enter one of the six electro-optic sensors of the AN/AAQ-37 Distributed Aperture System (DAS) and when the processed data are displayed on the helmet visor. Other issues being dealt with are jitter (the effect the aircraft’s vibration has on images projected on the pilot’s visor) and night acuity (the sensitivity of the sensors in darkness). The latency problem is being rectified by tweaking the system’s software, the jitter problem by adding miniature inertial measurement units to the helmet and ejection seat to help dampen the display, and the night-acuity issue by replacing existing sensors with more advanced versions.

The Air Force and Navy test programs at Edwards AFB, California, and NAS Patuxent River finished the year ahead of schedule for both number of flights and test points met.

The AN/AAQ-37 DAS provides passive spherical awareness for the F-35, detects and tracks aircraft and missiles simultaneously in all directions, and provides visual imagery for navigation and targeting. The DAS, developed for the F-35 by Northrop Grumman Corporation, has added hostile-ground-fire detection to its capabilities. In tests with the system mounted in a BAC 1-11 aircraft, it detected and provided location coordinates of armored vehicles firing live rounds. In addition to artillery, the system simultaneously detected and pinpointed the location of rockets and antiaircraft artillery over a wide area.

F-35B: The F-35B Lightning II made the type’s first flight from the training facility at Eglin AFB on 22 May 2012. VMFAT-501 received its first three aircraft in January, held an official rollout ceremony in February, and began training flights in May.

The F-35 Lightning II accomplished significant test milestones on 8 August with the release of an inert 1,000-pound GBU-32 Joint Direct Attack Munition over the Atlantic Ocean and on 3 December when an F-35B successfully released a 500-pound GBU-12 Paveway II laser-guided bomb.

Marine Strike Fighter Squadron (All Weather)-121 (VMFA[AW]-121) Green Knights, formerly at Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Miramar, California, transitioned to the F-35B from the two-seat Boeing F/A-18D Hornet in a 20 November 2012 ceremony at MCAS Yuma, Arizona, and in so doing became VMFA-121. The Marine Corps is fielding the F-35B to an operational squadron before the aircraft has completed its operational testing. The Green Knights became the first operational squadron to receive the Lightning II but will not be declared operationally capable until sometime in 2013. The next squadron to transition to the F-35B will be Marine Corps Attack Squadron (VMA) 211, which currently flies Harriers, in late 2014.

The F-35B successfully completed a major test on 15 August when BF-2 made the design’s first air starts at Edwards AFB. Verifying the restart capability of the propulsion system is part of the initial flight-test program and is a prerequisite for high angle-of-attack testing scheduled for 2013. The test aircraft BF-2 and an F/A-18 chase plane from Air Test and Evaluation Squadron (VX) 23 were ferried to Edwards AFB. While there, they used the Air Force F-35A testing facility at Edwards, with its long runways and dry lake beds for emergency landings, in case of problems with the air-start tests.

F-35C: The carrier-capable F-35C program received a setback in early 2012 with the discovery of problems related to catching the arresting wire during a carrier landing. To keep the F-35C stealthy, the arresting hook on the aircraft was designed to fit into the aircraft’s mold lines, and this led to problems. The distance between the main landing gear and the hook point was not great enough to allow for the wire to properly rebound off the deck after the main landing tires had rolled over it, so the hook damper and hook point were improved. The arresting-hook system tests for the new design are scheduled for 2013, with the F-35C undergoing carrier-suitability tests in 2014.

F/A-18E/F Super Hornet and EA-18G Growler: Boeing and the U.S. Navy on 6 September 2012 successfully flight-tested a new mission computer to expand the performance of the F/A-18E and F-model Super Hornets as well as the EA-18G Growler. The new Type 4 Advanced Mission Computer (AMC) has increased computing power and accelerated image- and mission-processing functions that support new systems being incorporated into the aircraft, including a distributed targeting system, infrared search-and-track, and a high-definition touch-screen display. The Navy will receive the first Super Hornets and Growlers with the Type 4 AMC in 2014.

Boeing and the Navy performed an in-flight demonstration of a satellite communications (SatCom) system that, if implemented, will enable Super Hornet and Growler aircrews to conduct two-way secure-voice and data communications with other SatCom-enabled aircraft, ships, ground forces, and command centers.

The test took place in late May at the Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division’s Advanced Weapons Lab at China Lake, California, by VX-31.

E-2D Advanced Hawkeye: A replacement for the E-2C, the E-2D introduces a strengthened fuselage to support increased aircraft weight, and a significant upgrade of the radar system, the communications suite, and the mission computer. The aircraft also incorporates an all-glass cockpit which permits the co-pilot to act as a tactical operator in support of the three dedicated system operators in the rear fuselage. The radar upgrade replaces the E-2C mechanically scanned radar with a phased-array radar that has combined mechanical- and electronic-scan capabilities.

The E-2D Initial Operational Test and Evaluation (IOT&E) was held from February to September 2012. As a result, the Navy sought and received a full-rate production decision from the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics in February 2013. IOT&E tests were flown in overland, littoral, and blue-water environments as the E-2Ds successfully tracked drone- and fighter-size aircraft targets. VX-1 combined forces with Carrier Airborne Early Warning Squadron (VAW) 120 to bring a joint detachment to NAS Jacksonville, Florida, in January 2012 for a four-week shipboard deployment in conjunction with the USS Enterprise (CVN-65) Composite Training Unit Exercise and Joint Task Force Exercise in the Atlantic Ocean. After completion of shipboard trials, the detachment traveled around the country over the subsequent six months to evaluate the E-2D in large-force, strike-group, air-wing, and joint exercises.

The Navy’s Cooperative Engagement Capability (CEC) was supposed to complete follow-on testing in conjunction with the E-2D IOT&E; however, CEC developmental delays forced a slowdown. IOT&E was adequate to assess the E-2D Advanced Hawkeye’s air-to-air and strike-warfare mission performance, and the aircraft demonstrated improved surveillance capabilities relative to the E-2C.

P-8A Poseidon: Boeing delivered the first production P-8A Poseidon antisubmarine aircraft to the Navy in Seattle on 4 March 2012. Based on the commercial 737-800 airliner, the P-8A is primarily a submarine hunter but also has installed intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance sensors and can be armed with bombs, torpedoes, depth charges and air-to-surface missiles. On 28 March 2012, the aircraft was delivered to NAS Jacksonville and the fleet training squadron, Patrol Squadron (VP) 30, as 1,200 people were on hand for the ceremony. Four additional production P-8As were delivered to the Navy in 2012, in addition to six flight-test aircraft already in service.

In July 2012, the VP-16 War Eagles began their transition from the P-3C to the P-8A. The squadron expects to finish the transition in early 2013 and will be the first to deploy with the Poseidon later in the year.

A full-scale development program is underway to equip some P-8A Poseidons with a pod-mounted surveillance radar. Raytheon’s Advanced Airborne Sensor (AAS) project, under contract since mid-2009, has received approval for development and production planning.

Boeing received a contract in February to modify a test P-8A for aerodynamic and structural development of the AAS radar pod, to be carried under the forward fuselage, with a completion date of mid-2016. The radar is a version of the Raytheon APS-149 Littoral Surveillance Radar System (LSRS) and will be tested on a P-3C. The Navy wants to acquire a number of the AAS systems for the P-8A for possible initial operational capability (IOC) by 2016. The P-8A radar plan has been shrouded in secrecy for almost ten years because the LSRS was a highly classified “black” program. LSRS P-3s have been reported in support-combat operations and for various demonstrations and tests of moving-target detection over both land and water.

C-130T Hercules: Rockwell Collins was selected by the Naval Air Systems Command (NavAir) to provide a suite of avionics equipment for the Navy’s C-130T Avionics Obsolescence Upgrade program. The equipment will be installed on 20 aircraft with modifications scheduled to begin in 2013. The avionics-equipment suite will include a hazard-detection weather radar, software-defined V/UHF radios, along with other communication equipment to enable Navy Reserve C-130s to meet current and future communication, navigation, surveillance/air-traffic-management airspace requirements.

Tilt-Rotor Aircraft

MV-22B Osprey: More than a dozen MV-22s, the Marine Corps variant of the V-22 Osprey, are scheduled to be assigned to Marine Helicopter Squadron One (HMX-1), the presidential support squadron, with first deliveries in 2013. The MV-22s will provide logistics and passenger support to Marine One flights replacing CH-46Es currently operating with the squadron.

In 2008, BAE Systems Controls Inc. was tasked with building a defensive-gun system for the USAF CV-22 Osprey. In 2011 the Marine Corps ordered a dozen Interim Defensive Weapons System (DWS) turret-gun kits for the Marine Corps MV-22. The DWS is a belly-mounted variation of the GAU-17, a 7.62-mm mini-gun. When not in use, the device is retracted inside the aircraft’s aft hook storage where it does not create aerodynamic drag. The system’s sensor is stored in the aircraft’s forward hook area. To use the weapon system, crewmembers employ a control station near the front of the cabin with a 12-inch screen and a device similar to a video-game controller. In the event of a jam during use, the weapon can be retracted to clear it. Osprey crews can also manually retract the turret or jettison it in an emergency.

The DWS was tested in Afghanistan in 2010, but now that production models have been delivered all MV-22 squadrons are being given an opportunity to mount it and try out the weapon using live ammo.

The ability of the Bell Boeing V-22 Osprey tiltrotor to fly farther and faster than a conventional helicopter has been a key factor in its success. With both Air Force CV-22B and Marine Corps MV-22B versions being used on long-range missions in Libya and Afghanistan, a way to increase the range of the Osprey is being sought. To operate from Navy amphibious-assault ships, the V-22 was designed with smaller-than-optimal wings and rotors with a negative impact on the aircraft’s combat radius. Without an option of increasing wingspan or rotor diameter, engineers are focusing on nacelle-mounted “sails” that work on the same principle as winglets on a commercial jetliner. NavAir will flight-test a modified MV-22 with sails installed that could theoretically boost range by as much as 5 percent. The concept, originally studied by Boeing for the Air Force CV-22, harnesses the energy from the vertical upwash around the wing and nacelle to produce a propulsive force. The flight tests will be focused on a configuration with three sails per nacelle.

Rotary-Wing Aircraft

CH-53K Super Stallion: Sikorsky delivered the first prototype CH-53K heavy-lift helicopter Ground Test Vehicle (GTV) for the Marine Corps on 4 December 2012. The GTV will be used for powered ground checks in preparation to the four follow-on flight-test helicopters that will be flying in 2014–15.

The GTV provides a means to check out the CH-53K helicopter’s dynamic systems by tests and measurements of the rotor blades, transmission, and engine systems while the aircraft is anchored to the ground. Testing by Sikorsky and NavAir test pilots will confirm whether those dynamic systems, as well as hydraulic, electrical, and avionics, comply with contract requirements. In mid-2013, the GTV will be anchored to a specially built outdoor platform as its three engines are powered up. Initial light-off tests will be performed without rotor blades, followed by tests with the blades attached. An additional ground-test airframe will undergo structural testing at Sikorsky’s main manufacturing plant in Stratford, Connecticut.

Though designed with the same footprint as the legacy CH-53E, the CH-53K will triple the external load-carrying capacity to more than 27,000 pounds over more than 110 nautical miles under “high hot” ambient conditions when they join the Fleet in 2019. New and improved systems for the increased lift capacity include 7,500-shaft-horsepower GE38-1B engines, a split-torque transmission design that more efficiently distributes engine power to the main rotors, and fourth-generation composite rotor blades, in addition to a lighter and stronger composite-airframe structure.

The CH-53K is now scheduled to become operational in 2019, one year later than previously slated. The Marines hope to buy about 200 CH-53Ks. The service will continue to operate the legacy three-engined CH-53E until the new “Kilo” model replaces it after retiring its remaining twin-engined CH-53Ds in 2012.

UH-1Y Venom/AH-1Z Viper: The 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) was the first MEU to deploy with both the UH-1Y Venom utility helicopter and AH-1Z Viper attack helicopter. The UH-1Y first operationally deployed in 2009 with the 13th MEU, but the November 2011–June 2012 deployment was the first for the Viper. The AH-1Z and its sister aircraft, the UH-1Y, were deployed on board the USS Makin Island (LHD-8) in November 2011 and returned to the United States in June 2012. The helicopters functioned as a detachment of Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 367, which provided four AH-1Z and three UH-1Y helicopters. The dual deployment took advantage of the 84 percent commonality of parts between the UH-1Y and AH-1Z. The upgraded helicopters also have 100 percent software commonality and the same operational flight program.

Lighter-Than-Air Vehicles

MZ-3A: A modified American Blimp Corporation A-170 commercial blimp, the MZ-3A, is the only manned airship in the Navy’s inventory and is based at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey. Calling MZ-3A a military airship is not technically correct, as it is an off-the-shelf commercial blimp operated by a civilian contractor and manned by civilian crews. It has flown as an advanced 178-foot laboratory for sensors and monitoring equipment since 2006 and operates at a lower cost than a comparable fixed-wing aircraft. Some of its missions included flight tests at the Army’s Yuma Proving Ground in Arizona and monitoring oil spills in the Gulf of Mexico following the Deepwater Horizon disaster. It has been taken from service once before and is scheduled for mothballing again in 2013. In 2012 the airship flew over the U.S. Army’s Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland, testing sensors slated for installation in the Army’s Long Endurance Multi-Intelligence Vehicle, which was canceled in early 2013. Without a mission, the MZ-3A will likely be deflated and put in storage sometime in 2013.

Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV)

MQ-8B Fire Scout: Northrop Grumman MQ-8B Fire Scouts were deployed on board the USS Simpson (FFG-56) in early 2012, Klakring (FFG-42) in mid-2012, and Robert G. Bradley (FFG-49) in late 2012, providing intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) support to special-operations forces and Navy antipiracy actions on the unmanned helicopter’s third, fourth, and fifth deployments. On the Klakring , the MQ-8B achieved certification for dual air-vehicle operations with manned helicopters. Additionally, Fire Scout has accrued more than 8,200 flight hours, with more than 6,200 of those hours flown operationally from ships and on land.

A team of Navy sailors and Northrop Grumman employees remains deployed in Afghanistan for land-based operations supporting the Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance Task Force (ISR TF) with full-motion video for the Army’s 37th Infantry Brigade Combat Team.

The MQ-8B Fire Scout has integrated the Advanced Precision-Kill Weapons System (APKWS) laser-guided 70-mm rocket that allow ship commanders to identify and engage hostile targets without putting pilots in harm’s way or calling in other aircraft for support. Live-fire demonstration at Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake, Calif., and final delivery of an operational system is slated for 2013.

MQ-8C: The follow-on aircraft to the MQ-8B Fire Scout is an unmanned version of the commercial Bell 407 helicopter designated the Northrop Grumman MQ-8C Endurance Upgrade. Combining the basic MQ-8B systems, including the existing ship-installed ground-control station, data links, and automatic recovery system of the Fire Scout, the MQ-8C Endurance Upgrade will provide the Navy with a 30 percent increase in range, twice the endurance and an increased payload capacity over the existing MQ-8B. The MQ-8C’s capabilities have already been validated through the Northrop Grumman/Bell Helicopter Fire-X demonstration program, which first flew on 10 December 2010 at the Yuma Proving Ground, Arizona. First flight of the MQ-8C is scheduled for August 2013.

X-47B: The X-47B Unmanned Combat Air System is the flight-test demonstration project for the first unmanned vehicle designed to take off and land on an aircraft carrier. The first major phase of flight testing the X-47B demonstrator aircraft came to a conclusion on 15 May 2012 when the airworthiness test phase wrapped up at Edwards AFB and the second of two test airframes were shipped to NAS Patuxent River. On 29 November, one of the two X-47s made the program’s first land-based catapult launch at NAS Patuxent River.

The X-47B participated in its first at-sea test in late November and early December 2012 on board the USS Harry S. Truman (CVN-75). The deck trials were conducted both while the Truman was in port at Naval Station Norfolk, Virginia, and while the ship was under way in the Western Atlantic. The aircraft participated in a series of trials to assess the possibility of an unmanned aircraft operating on a carrier. The X-47B was towed using carrier-based tractors, taxied under its own power on the flight deck, including spotting on catapults and taxing over arresting wires while receiving signals from a man-mounted control display unit. It was also tested to verify that its digital engine controls functioned correctly in an environment with strong electromagnetic fields. The ship’s crew also conducted fueling operations and moved the X-47B up and down the ship’s elevators between the flight deck and the hangar bay.

The program plans to demonstrate the ability of an X-47B to operate from a Navy aircraft carrier in 2013, including launch, recovery, and air-traffic-control operations, as well as testing flight-deck handling on another aircraft carrier in mid-2013. Demonstration of autonomous aerial refueling by the X-47B is planned for 2014.

MQ-4C/RQ-4 BAMS Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS): With the Navy’s ocean and overland electronic-surveillance aircraft, the EP-3E, retiring in the 2020s, and the follow-on aircraft, called the EP-X, dead in the water, the Navy has opted to go with a combination of the follow-on aircraft to the P-3, the P-8A Poseidon, and an unmanned aircraft, the MQ-4C Triton. In mythology, Triton was the messenger of the sea and Poseidon’s son. The P-8 will assume the antisubmarine and maritime-surveillance missions of the P-3, but will not be deployed in the numbers of the P-3. Thus, the MQ-4 will work with the P-8 Poseidon to enhance data collection on missions to include ocean surveillance, intelligence gathering, battle-damage assessment, and communications relay and support for other traditional Navy missions in the maritime and overland battlespaces.

In order to gain experience in unmanned aircraft operations, the Navy obtained five former Air Force RQ-4B Global Hawks and pressed them into test and operational service as the Broad Area Maritime Surveillance Demonstrator (BAMS-D) program. Some of the BAMS-D aircraft were operated in tests from NAS Patuxent River, and some were forward-deployed to the Middle East providing ISR in the 5th Fleet Area of Responsibility.

The Navy unveiled the first MQ-4C in ceremonies at Northrop Grumman facilities in Palmdale, California, on 14 June 2012. Flight testing is expected to begin in 2013. Although the 130-foot wingspan Triton is based on the Air Force’s RQ-4B Global Hawk, its sensors will be composed of some already fielded in the Department of Defense inventory, including the ZPY-3 multi-function active-sensor radar system.

Cargo Resupply UAS: The K-MAX unmanned helicopter is the result of a partnership between Kaman Corporation and Lockheed Martin, combining Kaman’s heavy-lift K-1200 airframe with Lockheed Martin’s mission-management and control systems. In a test of the system, NavAir shipped two Lockheed Kaman K-MAX helicopters to southern Afghanistan in December 2011 along with the Marines’ Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Squadron (VMU) 1 and a team of Lockheed contractors to fly and maintain the unmanned helicopter from December 2011 to May 2012. The K-MAX remained in Afghanistan after VMU-1 left in May and VMU-2 took over its operation with Lockheed’s help. The K-MAX flew 485 sorties and 525 flight hours and flew 90 percent of the scheduled missions with weather and/or maintenance problems, accounting for the other 10 percent over its six-month VMU-1 deployment. While it supports manned operation, in the unmanned mode, K-MAX can fly by itself day or night and at higher altitudes with a larger payload than any other rotary-wing unmanned craft. With its four-hook carousel, K-MAX can supply multiple locations in one flight and handle as much as 4,500 pounds of cargo per mission.

The Marine Corps is moving forward with plans to keep K-MAX carrying cargo in Afghanistan, preliminarily approving a deployment extension of the aircraft. The Marine Corps extended the first deployment from May until 30 September 2012 and then it was given another extension until 30 March 2013, with an option to keep the aircraft in theater until September 2013.

Aircraft Carriers

The USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78): Construction continued on the new class of nuclear aircraft carrier at the Newport News Shipbuilding (a division of Huntington Ingalls Industries) facility in Newport News, Virginia. Improvements over the ten Nimitz -class carriers currently in service include a redesigned flight deck and island structure, increased electrical-generation capability, electromagnetic aircraft launch-and-recovery equipment, a decreased manpower requirement, and state-of-the art sensors and electronic systems. The Ford ’s keel was laid on 14 November 2009, and the ship’s island structure was installed in January 2013. With that done, CVN-78’s construction passed the 90-percent-complete stage for a projected delivery to the Navy in September 2015.

The USS John F. Kennedy (CVN-79): The second Ford -class aircraft carrier is the second ship named after the 35th President of the United States; the first, CVA/CV-67, served from 1967 to 2007. Fabrication was begun in early 2011 with a scheduled keel-laying in 2014. Delivery is tentatively scheduled for 2020.

The USS Enterprise (CVN-80): During the 1 December 2012 inactivation ceremony of the USS Enterprise (CVN-65), Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus announced that CVN-80 would also be named Enterprise , the ninth U.S. Navy ship to bear the name. CVN-80 is to be built by Newport News Shipbuilding starting in 2018, for delivery in 2025. However, in an effort to cut down on Navy expenditures, the construction time may be delayed and extended by as much as two years for both the John F. Kennedy and the Enterprise . CVN-80 is projected to replace the Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN-69).


Next-Generation Jammer (NGJ): The Navy is moving ahead with development to replace the current ALQ-99 pod-mounted active jammer currently in use on EA-6B Prowlers and EA-18G Growlers. Integration with the F-35B, however, has been put on the back burner for an indefinite period.

NavAir released a Request for Proposals in July 2012 for the Next Generation Jammer Technology Development (TD) contract. This is a follow-on to the Technology Maturation efforts that began in 2009 with contracts awarded to BAE Systems, ITT Exelis, Northrop Grumman, and Raytheon. The TD contract winner will demonstrate technology maturity through a series of laboratory demonstrations and flight tests on board contractor test aircraft on a government electronic-warfare range. In late 2012 it was announced that ITT Exelis and Northrop Grumman were forming a partnership to develop their version of the NGJ.

The TD contract is expected to last two years, from mid-2013 to mid-2015. Following TD is the engineering, manufacturing, and development (EMD) phase that will address the integration of the NGJ into the EA-18G and the fabrication of developmental test pods. The EMD phase should run through 2019, followed by operational testing in 2020 with an IOC in 2020 or 2021.

Advanced Anti-Radiation Guided Missile (AARGM): The AGM-88E AARGM, produced by Alliant Techsystems (ATK), is an upgrade of the AGM-88 high-speed anti-radiation missile. The addition of a digital homing receiver, an active-terminal radar, improved countermeasures, inertial navigation capability, and a GPS system gives the AARGM a greatly improved capability to destroy enemy air-defense radars. In September 2012 ATK was awarded a contract for the full-rate production of AARGM from operational missiles to training-missile systems and related supplies and services necessary for manufacturing, spares, and Fleet deployment. Although the current Block 0 AARGMs have had issues in meeting testing goals, the Navy expects AARGM Block 1 to provide full operational capability, with testing scheduled for 2014.

Advanced Precision-Kill Weapon System II (APKWS II): The APKWS II incorporates a WGU-59/B precision-guidance laser-guided seeker on existing Hydra 70, 2.75-inch (70-mm) rocket motors and warheads in the Navy inventory. The APKWS is an “unpack and shoot” system using existing rocket launchers and requiring no platform integration or aircraft modifications. Since it is loaded and fired as a standard 2.75-inch rocket, minimal aircrew or ordnance-loading crew training is required. This makes for a low-cost, mid-range weapon, with either high-explosive or flechette warheads, that lends itself to urban warfare launched from fixed-wing, rotary-wing, or unmanned aircraft. The APKWS was introduced to combat in Afghanistan by the Marines in March 2012 with excellent results. The Navy has test-fired the missile from MH-60S/R helicopters against maritime targets, and a final decision on procuring them will be made in 2014. The Marine Corps and Air Force are looking to perform a joint test demonstration of a version of the missile with guidance fins that deploy at high speeds after launch from AV-8B Harriers or A-10 Thunderbolt IIs. Currently, the weapon is certified for launch from the UH-1Y, AH-1Z in the Marine Corps inventory, as well as the Bell 407 helicopter, the basic airframe for the MQ-8C.

AGM-154 Joint Standoff Weapon (JSOW): Raytheon’s air-launched AGM-154C-1 JSOW adds networked antiship capabilities as well as improved stationary land-target recognition. JSOW is a family of air-to-ground weapons that employ an integrated GPS/inertial navigation system and terminal imaging infrared seeker. JSOW C-1 adds moving-maritime-target capability and a two-way Link-16 datalink with a range of more than 60 nautical miles in addition to a inflight retargeting capability. The JSOW C-1’s IOC is scheduled for 2013.

A jet-powered version of the munition, called the JSOW-ER (extended range), with a projected range of 300 miles, is in the testing phase. Raytheon completed the first interoperability-validation test of the warhead and fuze in late 2011. The test’s success led to ground testing of a tactically configured JSOW-ER in 2012.

AIM-9X Block II Sidewinder: By the end of 2012 the Raytheon AIM-9X Block II Sidewinder was halfway through operational testing and was performing better than expected in most areas. One improvement over the AIM-9X Block I is the lock-on after-launch mode that allows the missile to be fired without the infrared seeker head locked onto the target. A data-link similar to the one in the AIM-120D AMRAAM allows it to receive target updates from sensors in the launching aircraft.

ADM-160 Miniature Air-Launched Decoy Jammer (MALD-J): The U.S. Navy and Raytheon began work in 2012 on integrating the MALD-J into the F/A-18 E and F Super Hornet. This effort includes a series of risk-reduction tests and technology demonstrations to ensure the system is shipboard-compatible. MALD is a 300-pound low-cost air-launched programmable decoy with a range of 500 nautical miles. An MALD can protect aircraft by presenting the flight profiles and signatures of friendly aircraft to enemy air defenses. The MALD-J version adds an electronic jamming capability to the basic decoy.

ALQ-231 Intrepid Tiger II: In late 2012 the Marines deployed to Afghanistan the ALQ-231(V)1 Intrepid Tiger II electronic attack pod. The Marines and the Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division, Point Mugu, California, adopted an unusual development approach for the pod, acting as an integrator and selecting an open-systems design with hardware components easily replaced when more capable or reliable components become available. The Intrepid Tiger pod provides the AV-8B Harrier with a communications-jamming capability that augments the EA-6B and its USQ-113 system. In one operating mode, the pilot selects a preset program for the jammer to follow. In the networked mode, personnel on the ground can selectively control the pod to jam specific frequency bands. Signals intelligence personnel also can monitor the jammer’s effectiveness and make changes as necessary.

To minimize systems integration problems, the Harrier views the ALQ-231 as a Maverick missile. Further developments are already under way, and upgrades to the current system will incorporate an electronic-surveillance capability and upgraded jamming-techniques upload capability. As a follow-on, Intrepid Tiger II Version 2 is projected to be a two-pod configuration carried on the RQ-9 Shadow UAV. To reduce cost, the system will use the same software and about 85 percent of the same hardware as the Harrier pod. Carriage on board the new F-35 is also being considered.

Commander Jacobs was managing editor of The Hook magazine, the quarterly journal of the Tailhook Association, from 1989 to 2011. He is a former radar intercept officer and a 1973 Topgun graduate with 1,800 flight hours in F-4s and F-14s.


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