F-22, F-35 Outsmart Test Ranges, AWACS « Breaking Defense - Defense industry news, analysis and commentary: How smart is too smart? When F-35 Joint Strike Fighters flew simulated combat missions around Eglin Air Force Base in Florida, their pilots couldn’t see the “enemy” radars on their screens.
Why? The F-35s’ on-board computers analyzed data from the airplanes’ various sensors, compared the readings to known threats, and figured out the radars on the training range weren’t real anti-aircraft sites — so the software didn’t even display them. While the software and pilots on older aircraft hadn’t noticed the imperfections and inaccuracies in how the Eglin ranges portrayed the enemy, the F-35s’ automated brains essentially said, “Fake! LOL!” and refused to play.
The Eglin anecdote is just one example of how the F-35 Lightning and its twin-engine older brother, the F-22 Raptor — collectively called fifth-generation fighters — are overturning how the Air Force operates. The sophistication of fifth gen sensors, software, and stealth requires the Air Force to overhaul training and network infrastructure. They even challenge longstanding assumptions about who makes what decisions and who’s in command. If the pilot of a fifth gen jet infiltrating enemy airspace has a clearer picture of the battle than senior officers further back on a vulnerable AWACS command plane or back at base in Air Operations Center, why should they be telling him or her what to do?
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