Will the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II be the today’s Spitfire and topple incoming modern versions of the V-1 flying bomb of World War 2? If the US Navy and Lockheed Martin have their way: “yes”.
It is called the Naval Integrated Fire Control-Counter Air (NIFC-CA) and meant as a huge extra asset to protect a Carrier Battle Group or Amphibious Battle Group against incoming cruise / anti-ship missiles that can been launched at long ranges by for example Russian-made and -owned Tupolev Tu-22M Backfire bombers.
At the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico, USA, Lockheed Martin is moving its NIFC-CA slowly to the next phase: a live-fire test planned for somewhere in the coming two years. The plan is that a US Navy or US Marines F-35B or F-35C uses a NIFC-CA sensor, and/or Link 16 transferred data of a ship’s Aegis radar plus the Grumman E-2D Hawkeye as airborne relay station to get a more complete threat image of the operations zone on beyond-visual range distances.
Possible incoming anti-ship missiles will then be destroyed using a ship-launched Raytheon SM-6 missile, while adaption of the Raytheon AIM-120 Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile (AMRAAM) is likely considered as an airborne alternative to equip the F-35 with a cruise missile kill capability.
During World War II Royal Air Force pilots used the strong wings of their Supermarine Spitfire planes to topple and actively crash incoming Nazi-German V-1s, while the flying bombs were en route to their targets. Although the F-35 will not use the same technique the Lockheed Martin NIFC-CA project somewhat might turn the Lightning II in today’s state-of-the-art Spitfire.
© 2015 Airheadsfly.com editor Marcel Burger
Featured image: First live-fire launch of a guided air-to-air missile by a F-35 Lighting II in 2013 (Image © USAF)