The RAAF Gets Ready for the Arrival of their First F-35s


The RAAF is getting ready to receive their first F-35s in country on December 10, 2018.

In preparation for the arrival in country, the Australian Department of Defence has generated a series of videos explaining the F-35 and its unique capabilities to the public.

This one focused on the helmet which reflects the capabilities of the F-35 as a node in the network, one which is driven by the integration of sensors onboard a single F-35, empowered by MADL connectivity with other F-35s as a combat force, and further empowered and empowering as other elements of the network come into play.

The F-35 is part of an evolving approach to combat involving peer competitors.

Rather than working from the landscape of a large networked force, one vulnerable to significant disruptions, the focus is increasingly upon integrated force packages which can achieve mission tasks without needing to reach back to the broader global network.

In this video which the RAAF published on September 23, 2018, the RAAF explained the nature of the F-35 helmet.

And in their countdown to the arrival of the F-35 series, defence.connect published an article by Stephen Kuper on December 5, 2018 which focused on the F-35 as a node in the network appraoch.

The real-time imagery provided by the DAS enables the pilot to ‘look through’ the aircraft, allowing the pilot to see the entire environment around the aircraft. Additionally, the helmet provides pilots with infrared night vision through the use of an integrated camera, making images in total darkness look exactly like what they would see in daylight.

Each of these individual components feeds into a broader system of sensor fusion.

Sensor fusion: Enables pilots to draw on information from all of the above mentioned components, to establish a single, integrated picture of the battlespace. A core component of sensor fusion is the immediate data shearing capabilities of the F-35, which ensures that all of the information gathered is then automatically shared with other pilots and command and control operating centres on their network using the most modern, secure and low-observable data links.

Maintaining datalink and information security is supported by the introduction of the multi-function advanced data link (MADL), which enables pilots to share data with other strike aircraft as well as other airborne, surface and ground-based platforms required to perform assigned missions.

The ability to transmit both complex intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance data and targeting information enables Army, Navy and other Air Force assets for appropriate tasking by a ‘shooter’ platform.

This ‘node’ capability is described best by Commander Air Combat Group, Air Commodore Mike Kitcher, who told Defence Connect, “Integrating the F-35 goes beyond just the pilot and aircrew training across the technology, it involves integrating the F-35 with the Air Force’s other key platforms like the E-7A Wedgetails, our Super Hornets and Growlers and KC-30As. Furthermore, it includes integrating the aircraft into systems like the Poseidon and the Triton, which is where we start to see a web of systems created.”

This is reinforced by Major General Gus McLachlan, Commander Forces Command, who described the role of the F-35 as part of the broader ‘joint force’ ADF from an Army perspective, saying, “It is Army’s response to the ADF’s journey to develop an internet of things (IoT) approach to data gathering nodes across the services, like Navy’s AWDs and Air Force’s F-35s, and then Army being able to provide a shooting solution, should it be required.”

The F-35 and its diverse range of capabilities will radically change the options available to Australia’s strategic decision makers, enabling a tailored, adaptable and high-capability response to a variety of threats, well into the 2040s.