The F-35s Distributive Aperture System (DAS) is amongst its strongest attributes. It makes sense that it could cue High-Off-Bore-Sight (HOBS) missiles to their targets via data-link, without the launching aircraft needing to turn almost at all. In other words, at the merge, when traditionally fighter pilots begin employing aggressive maneuvering tactics in order to put the enemy into a defensive position, ending in a succesful weapons employment solution, the F-35 would simply fire its HOBS short-range missile while accelerating away from the fight. The missile would make close to and 180′ turn toward the enemy while they are in a vulnerable, energy depleting turn. In theory the enemy would be either destroyed by the missile or they would lose larger amounts of energy trying to defend against it while the F-35 has accelerated out of the within visual range fight.
As I have talked about before, aerial beyond visual range targeting in a net centric battlefield will be provided increasingly by remote sensors such as AWACS, ship based radar and via other tactical aircraft, so it would make sense that DAS could utilize the F-35’s advanced data-link to direct properly equipped short-range missiles as well. The AIM-9X Block II looks to be that exact missile for the job. Now in the late stages of testing, the AIM-9X Block II will feature lock-on-after-launch capability and a data link receiver which are both needed to take advantage of the F-35’s DAS system and tactics as described above.
That being said this is even a larger argument for my continued support of a stealth, supercruising regional attack/interceptor aircraft. Why make a fighter sized aircraft at all when you can have much greater range, speed, and weapons carriage capability with a larger fighter-bomber sized airframe, while still being able to protect yourself within visual range??? The DAS system is not unique to the F-35, a similar system can be integrated into any airframe. So why is the USAF spending hundreds of billions of dollars on an aircraft that is a fighter but does not need to be a fighter??
This also makes a strong case for the F-22 to receive a DAS or upgrade its advanced missile warning system to provide the same capability. I think we are going to be getting into the realm of “imagine the F-22 with the F-35s avionics” pretty soon here. What we need is just that, a stretched regional attack FB-22 with much greater fuel and weapons payload and the avionics system of an F-35. The number one thing Raptor pilots wish for is more missiles, I say we give it to them. If the J-20 goes into production and is sold around the globe, this may not just be logical but totally necessary. The problem is that the JSF eats up so much of the USAF’s budget for the next 30 years that this may be impossible. You can see my alternative plan to the JSF here: http://aviationintel.com/?p=1185, its amazing what we could buy while still saving money if we used the JSF as a research and development program, taking its avionics suite and integrating it into more affordable or more capable aircraft in the future.