Australian concerns as stated by Mr. Borgu of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute over F-35's Air-to-Surface strike capabilities are a
non-issue, Here's why:
The F-35 if purchased by Australia is expected to enter service in FY 2008. Full scale production of the Air to Surface missile system in question
(JASSM) is expected to begin in spring 2004 (just weeks away).
1 + 1 = 2
2 + 2 = 4
F-35 delivered in 2008 + JASSM delivered in 2004 = Non-Issue
While we are on the subject though, here's a little bit about the F-35 weapon systems...
Use of internal weapons-bay systems naturally keep the plane stealthier, (yes the JSF is a stealth aircraft on par with the early generation
Internal weapons-bay systems slated for the F-35 include:
(Joint Direct Attack Munition)
(Wind-Corrected Munitions Dispenser) for the Sensor-Fuzed Weapon
(Joint StandOff Weapon)
External weapons systems slated (excluding guns) for the F-35 include the following:
(Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile)
Additionally some of the STOVL versions of the F-35 are planned to receive a direct energy weapons system (DEW), specifically the TRW or Raytheon
100kw solid state laser now under development. The STOVL version has a shaft-driven lift fan, which, if removed, opens up an ideal spot for the laser.
Removal of the lift fan not only provides more than adequate room for the solid state laser it also can make use of the lift fan's drive shaft, which
is good for 27,000 horsepower, which is more than adequate to power a 100kw solid state laser.
The laser weapon's function will initially be defensive, destroying any incoming surace to air or air to air munitions as much as 2-3 kilometers
before reaching the DEW armed F-35.
I am probably a bit biased, but the Raytheon laser will probably win the competition since the optics are more efficient, thus making the beam
effective from a greater distance.
Below: The JASSM is an air to surface weapons
system slated for use with the F-35.
This system is a stealth, sub-sonic cruise
missile that can be used against ships and
can hit within 2.4 meters of it's intended
Below: Australian Minister for Defence
Robert Hill checks out the cockpit of an
F-35 Joint Strike Fighter at the Lockheed
Martin plant in Fort Worth, Texas.