The climb to air dominance
Advanced technology gives the US and allies an edge in the skies
Air dominance, or the ability to control any conflict in the skies, is a journey.
“Air dominance is not a birthright,” said retired U.S. Air Force wing commander Jim Meger, now an international program manager at Raytheon. “Air dominance is something that you have to earn every single day."
Raytheon has a role to play through its suite of advanced munitions, radars, navigation and landing systems for fourth- and fifth-generation fighter aircraft.
These technologies are continually evolved to help press the advantage. For example, the company has steadily improved the AMRAAM air-to-air missile, giving it a boost in range, advanced guidance and a mature seeker that can find targets in challenging conditions. AMRAAM is operational on all F-35 variants. It’s the only radar-guided, air-to-air missile cleared to fly on the F-35.
Raytheon has completed 4,700 test firings of the system.
Rising above the competition
Since the dawn of air power, pilots have used poor weather and limited visibility to escape attacks. Radars changed that dynamic. Raytheon has active electronically scanned array systems, or AESA, technology and other types of radars on many of the systems it builds.
For example, the StormBreaker smart weapon uses a millimeter-wave radar, imaging infrared and semi-active laser to punch through the haze. It seeks, classifies and finds targets in all weather conditions. The system will fly on the F-15E Strike Eagle, F/A-18 E/F Super Hornet and all variants of the F-35 by 2023.
Also improved: landing systems. Raytheon has a system called the Expeditionary JPALS, short for Joint Precision Approach and Landing System. The GPS-guided system enables U.S. forces to operate from austere runways in remote regions of the world. It's the same technology that guides aviators onto the decks of aircraft carriers in rolling seas.
“If a disaster were to strike in an isolated area with little infrastructure and just a dirt runway, the Air Force, using Expeditionary JPALS, could rapidly be on the ground, providing humanitarian relief within an hour of arrival," said retired Air Force Col. JW Watkins, a former fighter pilot who now works in Raytheon business development. "This capability can help provide emergency relief in the aftermath of a disastrous event, getting food, water, shelter and medicine to those who need it."
The expeditionary version of JPALS can be packaged into transit cases, which are like large suitcases. The system can be air-dropped or mounted on a small vehicle, driven into remote locations and set-up in a matter of minutes.
"You could be on a peacekeeping mission and things go from zero to fast, like that … and all your systems that you have, whether they're weapons, sensors, they must be ready in a moment's notice," Meger said.