14 March 2017

News Story: Here's how the Air Force is fixing the F-35's moving target problem

By: Valerie Insinna

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Air Force’s F-35A, in its current iteration, can’t hit a moving target — at least without a human manually directing the bomb to its destination. 

The service plans to change that over the next year by adding a new weapon, Raytheon’s Enhanced Paveway II (GBU-49), which it hopes to integrate into the F-35’s arsenal in time for full combat capability. 

The GBU-49 wasn’t originally included in the Block 3F weapons loadout, which, along with new software, will make the joint strike fighter fully mission-capable. The service decided to incorporate it within the last six to nine months, said Brig. Gen. Scott Pleus, director of the Air Force’s F-35 integration office. 

“The ability to hit a moving target is a key capability that we need in current close-air support fight, and the GBU-49 is a great solution for the F-35 and, frankly, for all of our legacy platforms to hit these moving targets,” he said during a February interview. 

According to the F-35 Joint Program Office, a Block 3F F-35 is supposed to be able “to search, detect, track, ID and engage multiple stationary and moving surface targets in clear and adverse weather.” At the time the services formed the F-35’s requirements, they believed they could use a cluster munition to meet the moving target objective, but those weapons were banned under an international treaty, said F-35 JPO head Lt. Gen. Christopher Bogdan. 

“The U.S., by treaty, is not allowed to use those weapons anymore,” he told reporters in February. “So when that weapon left the inventory, we were left without a weapon that could hit moving targets."  

Read the full story at DefenseNews