Marine Corps F-35B guides Navy-launched missile to target for first time

A Standard Missile 6 launches to engage an over-the-horizon threat as part of the U.S. Navy’s first live fire demonstration to successfully test the integration of the F-35 with existing Naval Integrated Fire Control-Counter Air (NIFC-CA) architecture. During the test, an unmodified U.S. Marine Corps F-35B acted as an elevated sensor to send data through its Multi-Function Advanced Data Link to a ground station connected to USS Desert Ship (LLS 1), a land-based launch facility designed to simulate a ship at sea. (U.S. Army photo by Drew Hamilton/Released)

The United States Navy has successfully tested the F-35’s ability to act as an airborne spotter for their Aegis Weapon System, allowing the shipborne missiles to be guided to targets using spotting information from the aircraft.

The US Navy reports that a test at the White Sands Missile Range on the 12th of September yielded great results when a US Marine Corps F-35B used its sensor suite to guide a SM6 (also known as the RIM-174 Standard Extended Range Active Missile) to an “over the horizon” target.

The test proved that the Navy can use F-35s as advanced information suites, connecting to the current Naval Integrated Fire Control-Counter Air (NIFC-CA) network. In short, the F-35s can relay information and targeting data to cruisers and destroyers, which can then launch a missile at the target- up to 290 miles away.

“This test was a great opportunity to assess the Navy’s ability to take unrelated technologies and successfully close the fire control loop as well as merge anti-surface and anti-air weapons into a single kill web that shares common sensors, links and weapons,” said Anant Patel, major program manager for future combat systems in the Program Executive Office for Integrated Warfare Systems (PEO IWS).

The results mean that Marine F-35B pilots will be able to save ammunition for other fights while ensuring that targets are put on “the list” of things to be taken care of, either at the time or in the future. Meanwhile, ships that may have previously found themselves sitting idle or out of the fight will now be more involved.

“This test represents the start of our exploration into the interoperability of the F-35B with other naval assets,” said Lt. Col. Richard Rusnok of Marine Operational Test and Evaluation Squadron VMX-1. “We believe the F-35B will drastically increase the situational awareness and lethality of the naval forces with which it will deploy in the very near future.”

The missile used in the test was launched by the slowest ship in the Navy, as the USS Desert Ship (LLS-1) is little more than a concrete blockhouse that simulates shipboard conditions for missile launches.

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  • Andy Wolf

    Andy Wolf is an Appalachian native who spent much of his youth and young adulthood overseas in search of combat, riches, and adventure- accruing decades of experience in military, corporate, first responder, journalistic and advisory roles. He resides in North Carolina's Blue Ridge Mountains with his K9 companion, Kiki.

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