Enemy AESA Radar Can Detect F-35 JSF

The US Air Force stealth fighter aircraft, the F-35, can be detected by Chinese and Russian radars, it has been revealed.

An AESA (Active Electronically Scanned Array) radar, which emits separate radio waves on different frequencies, fitted onto China’s latest warships is the source of a new threat to the F-35. By rapidly changing frequencies, the radar is more difficult to fool. The system is apparently capable of locating a stealth aircraft within 220 miles, according to the Daily Mail.

The UK Ministry of Defense, on Tuesday denied media reports suggesting the F-35 was susceptible to enemy radar. “There is no suggestion that this is the case. Lightning II is the most advanced combat jet in the world and has been specifically designed to be updated throughout its lifetime to ensure it can benefit from new technology to counter emerging threats and keep Britain ahead of its enemies,” the statement said.

“The aircraft remain on track to provide the Royal Navy and RAF with unprecedented stealth capability, as well as state-of-the-art sensors and weapons, from 2018. Lightning II will fly to the UK for the first time this summer and take to the skies at 2 events where the British public will be able to see some of the state-of-the-art capability that the aircraft offers,” the statement added.

Lockheed Martin has also issued a statement, saying, “The stealth capabilities in the F-35 are unprecedented in military aviation. Extensive analysis and flight test of the survivability of the F-35 with its combination of stealth, advanced sensors, data fusion, sophisticated countermeasures, and electronic attack demonstrate conclusively its superior advantages over earlier generation aircraft.”

Although details of China’s radar development remain unclear, experts suggest that Beijing has overcome obstacles with Russia’s help. With the AESA radar technology under its belt, Chinese destroyers will be able to track and shoot down F-35 fighters from a distance of 350 kilometers, Vladimir Evseev, director of the Moscow-based Center for Social and Political Studies,  told the Voice of Russia.

Besides inducting the AESA radars onto the type 052D destroyers, the Chinese Air Force also plans to use the radars on the J-10 fighter aircraft.

In a March 2013 Chinese BTV channel broadcast, the J-10’s chief test pilot confirmed that the J-10B uses Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar.  The aircraft is an upgrade to the Chengdu J-10, China’s first indigenous modern fighter.

“Because AESA radars can perform well in multiple wavelength bands, they allow greater dwell time on a target, an expanded envelope to track a wider area, more resistance to jamming, and greater resolution at range, so a track of even stealthy planes like the new F-35 would show up sooner,” according to online reports.

According to an analysis that appeared in Aviation Week and the Daily Beast on April 28, Bill Sweetman, a senior editor at Aviation Week, said, “The F-35 is susceptible to detection by radars operating in the VHF bands of the spectrum. The fighter’s jamming is mostly confined to the X-band, in the sector covered by its APG-81 radar. These are not criticisms of the program but the result of choices by the customer, the Pentagon.”

The stealth fighter, jointly developed by Lockheed Martin and BAE Systems, can top speeds of 1,300mph and a maximum range of 1,450 miles and is set to be procured by Italy, Turkey, Israel, Australia, South Korea and the UK.