F-35 Sensors Track Ballistic Missiles in Tests

Northrop Grumman announced June 26 that it recently demonstrated the ballistic missile detection and tracking capabilities of its AN/AAQ-37 distributed aperture system and AN/APG-81 active electronically scanned array radar. These sensors are featured on the F-35 strike fighter, but were resident aboard the company’s BAC1-11 test bed aircraft during these tests, which the company coordinated with five NASA experimental rocket launches. “Northrop Grumman demonstrated these ballistic missile tracking modes with only minor modifications to the baseline F-35 radar and DAS software,” said Jeff Leavitt, vice president of Northrop Grumman’s combat avionic systems business unit. The DAS and APG-81 autonomously detected, tracked, and targeted multiple, simultaneous ballistic rockets, according to the company’s release. DAS detected all five rockets—which were launched in rapid succession—and tracked them from initial launch well past the second-stage burnout, notes the release. This wasn’t the first time that DAS tracked ballistic missiles.