Home' Asia Pacific Defence Reporter : APDR February 2011 Contents Asia Pacific Defence Reporter | 37
Australia’s maritime security demands the most
advanced multi-role anti-submarine and anti-surface
warfare helicopter. One with a sophisticated mission
system that provides complete situational awareness.
One with network-enabled data links that allow
information sharing and instant decision making. One
that is operationally proven and in production.
MH-60R. Ready to Meet Australia’s Needs.
whether this is a prototype – that is, a flying test bed – or whether it is the
first of a production series of a fifth-generation aircraft.
The term fifth-generation has become shorthand for any aircraft with
very low observable characteristics. These depend not only on the shape
of the aircraft, but also the materials it is made from, the quality of its
construction, the effectiveness of its coatings, the nature of its electronic
emissions and the type of weapons it can carry and – of great importance
– its ability to provide the pilot with full situational awareness.
While these characteristics are not yet all fully mature on the JSF, they
are getting closer – hence the US decision to freeze F-22 numbers at 187.
In many respects the JSF has incorporated the lessons learned from
earlier programmes, including the F-22, and it is well on the way to being
produced in extremely large numbers. It is also worth considering that
the time between first flight of a prototype and introduction into service
can be around 15 years. The first Eurofighter prototype was rolled out in
1985 and started entering service around 20 years later.
To suggest that a single J-20 flight can have such enormous
consequences seems a bit thin – certainly at this early stage in its
development. Sometimes defence technology can indeed make sudden
and spectacular leaps – the Dreadnought, jet aircraft, the atomic bomb,
stealth bombers – but the vast majority of progress is incremental. At this
stage there is nothing to suggest that the J-20 possesses a generational
edge such as a Romulan cloaking device.
Consider some of the main features of the JSF: a powerful active
electronically scanned array (AESA) radar; high capacity data links;
a helmet-mounted display that allows the pilot to “see” through the
aircraft by the use of external cameras and imagery-stitching software;
low-maintenance coatings; a number of aircraft self-diagnostic systems
linked back to its base; extremely precise manufacturing; the extensive
use of lightweight materials, especially composites and titanium; and
a high level of data fusion. The cockpit screens in each aircraft can be
configured in such a way as to run up to eight separate displays showing
anything and everything from a basic radar picture through to the precise
temperature of a missile seeker head in the internal weapons bay.
Achieving all of the foregoing has been neither easy nor cheap.
The United States has been at war or on a semi-war footing for the
past 20 years and the JSF benefits from a huge amount of operational
knowledge as well as massive – if sometimes wasteful – R&D spending.
The potential of the aircraft is recognized by the SDD partner countries
and it comes as no surprise that Israel – a country which knows something
about surviving in a hostile environment – is now also buying it.
The RAAF and the Government are sure they have made the right
To suggest that a single J-20 flight can have
such enormous consequences seems a bit
thin – certainly at this early stage in its
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