This scenario is based in wargame where Russia makes grap on Åland islands as a part of conflict in baltic states.
(As of now Meteor is going to be adjusted to fit into the missile bay of F-35. but out of necessity US armed forces will at least demand on AMRAAM of comparable statistics to be added to Lightning’s weapon mix.)
In so called beast mode F-35 can carry ordnance in four under wing pylons, and wingtip positions, added to so called stealthy mode where all weapons are stored within weapons bays of the fighters. There is one bigger weapons bay and two smaller missile bays. These missile bays are designed to hold AMRAAM missiles. Meteor is bigger so the missile needs to be reconfigured to allow it to be loaded into the bay. Also as pylons are quite limited in F-35 wings I would find it very unlikely that they do not have twin missile pylons for mid and inner wing pylons. The carrying capacity is there, 2500lb and 5000lb, so I cannot see HOW anything else would be considered better option. Also I have seen pictures of quad missile rails for F-15 (to allow F-15 carry whopping 16 A/A missiles in mission) so IF they are available, Lightning II will need them. And if they can fit into the wing side by side obviously.
Because demands of stealth F-35 fuel fraction is higher than its competition. This means more fuel is carried compared to other payload. As amount of fuel fighter can carry dictates the flight time as fuel consumption rates of all HX fighters are remarkably same (obviously one/two engine play part.)
NSM is Anti ship missile developed jointly by Norway and Australia and will be the only Anti shipping missile adopted for F-35.
Because F-35 As are going for CAP mission in buildup for war times they are loaded in beast mode as Stealth is hardy necessary, one might even say it is detrimental when you are showing the flag over Åland.
Each F-35 A carries following armaments:
- 2x ASRAAM in outer wing pylon
- 2x Meteor in mid wing pylon
- 4x Meteor in inner wing pylon
- 2x Meteor in Weapons bay
- 2x NSM missile in weapons bay
So a bit over 2500kg of AA missiles and about 800kg of AS missiles, all together about 3300kg of ordnance. This is about one third of maximum load of the craft. Lightnings will not be greatly hampered by this load, although the plentiful array of missiles will create parasitic drag. You note that quad pylons are designed for AMRAAM missiles however Meteor is designed to be compatible with AMRAAM pylons and data-link.
Lockheed Martin F-35 A’s AN/APG-81 radar is extremely capable and has 1200 TR modules. As each and every module transmit in approximately same power, is every radars power highly dependent on number of transmitter/receiver modules available. As an AESA radar it has “low probability of intercept” meaning the wave forms and frequencies can be adapted and changed in fly, which makes it difficult for enemy to pick up the AN/APG-81 when it is transmitting. So F-35 can pick up targets with its radar quite early and still be undetectable for enemy radar because of stealth.
F-35s secondary sensor is the Electro Optical Targeting System or EOTS is in essence sniper pod mounted internally to the plane. It has mid range FLIR, which sees through water vapor better than more traditional near IR systems do. This is caused bu the fact that water molecule is about same size as is near IR wavelength, so water vapor degrades near IR systems performance severely.
Russian Suhoi SU-35 fighters have the edge in speed and in altitude, but their IRBIS-E PESA radars will be unable to pick F-35s in heavy EW environment because of stealth design of F-35. So Russians need to rely on their OLS-35 system to pick the Lightnings up from background, This could be difficult in extreme ranges against surface. Russians’ big Saturn engines on the other hand give nice visible heat bloom against cold space and are thus quite early picked up by F-35 optic system.
Meteor as a missile gives quite decisive edge with its enormous no-escape zone. I have even seen range quotas for Meteor going as far as 300km. But I take more conservative about 200km range, and “official” 60km No-Escape zone. ASRAAM missiles give a good account as well being far ranged (for WVR missile, 50km), more speedy and very maneuverable. The increased width of AIM-132 ASRAAM compared to AIM-9 sidewinder allows for bigger rocket motor and more space for computer. This leads to high counter counter measure capabilities
All Russian fighters are coming toward Finnish mainland from S to SW orientation, with other Russian fighters beyond border making moves so that DCA fighters to the east will not be able to help out in Archipelago sea. Finns try to maneuver into position to get launches toward transports, and thus spread their formation to more loose one. Russians on the other hand will try to screen their transports so that para drop can be successfully accomplished. The aerial battle will be over under 10 minutes. F-35’s extremely good sensors and , missiles (Meteor 200km at altitude vs 110 km for R-77-1) and AN/ASQ-239 Barracuda EW equipment will see that they will emerge victorious from the fray against kinematically far superior Suhois.
F-35 are able to launch at 11.21 pretty much as soon as they get airborne from Pirkkala AFB, at targets at about 150 km, at that range and against ground clutter Suhois will not be able to pick up the four ship because stealth characteristics of F-35 fighters and the EW system deteriorating IRBIS radar performance. IRBIS radar should be able to pick Lightening IIs at or about 110 km. As F-35s have ample supply of missiles, the leader decides to fire salvo of five Meteors at four-ship of Suhois flying at 15km as CAP over the Archipelago sea and another five against other four ship on vector to Houtskari. Powerful radar and good data-link means that Meteor missiles have a bit higher kill probability than with smaller radar or inferior data-link (about 80%) Finns need to cut through the fighter cover in order to get close enough tho have good shots against the transports.
Finns launch first salvo at 11.21. This will be 10 Meteor missiles. Which will fly at about 4 mach towards Suhois doing about 1 mach towards them. This combines to about 100 km per minute closing speed. This gives missiles about 80 seconds of flight time. Range is so long that Suhois will likely miss the launches and guidance for missiles in route. F-35 will turn to the vector that takes them over Mynämäki in few minutes. to keep the advantage that stealth characteristics of their fighters give them.
First salvo of 5 Meteors score hits on Suhois over Nauvo Island close to mainland Finland at 11.22.20. All four Suhois are destroyed without realizing what hit them. Few seconds later the other salvo of five destroys the four ship over Houtskari. Remaining two four ships realize there are Finnish fighters in area, And they can see the F-35s over Pyhäjärvi. Suhois over sea between Kumlinge and Houtskari are able to launch as well, although they will need to use their radars to guide a single missile each to burn through the ECM and stealth characteristics of F-35s. F-35s get to launch as well. Finns launch another salvo of 10 missiles at remaining Suhoi four ships, and concentrate jamming on R-77 data-links. As Russians tend to launch a salvo of mixed IR- and radar guided missiles Finns need to pay attention on their jamming and maneuvering. Fortunately for Finns Suhois begin to be in Meteors “no escape zone” meaning Meteors can fly in without saving fuel in the rocket motors, and as Meteors are faster than R-77s, manage the Finns get hits on closer Suhoi four ship over Iniö island before R-77 missiles close into distance of 20 km and thus lose their guidance and are unable to find the F-35s. Finns guide remaining Meteor missile to troop transports flying over Lemland. And fire two other after the first. last four-ship of Suhois try to avoid the Lightnings, and turn toward west and begin to pick up speed to get away from battle-space. The transports are destroyed before they start dropping the paratroops.
F-35s manage to avoid rest of the R-77 missiles without casualties and they continue toward Åland islands. Soon they pick up targets on sea.
Finns fly over the Åland mainland and scan the sea for possible targets. Fighters pick up three fast moving targets heading towards islands. Targets are three Zubr class Air cushioned landing craft. Lightnings launch six NSM missiles towards the craft. The missiles are picked up by the Zubrs AD radars and landing craft start evasive maneuvering and prepare to use CIVS system, against the missiles. Saturation attack is successful and manages to burn through the CIWS and AA missile defense and hits are scored on the Zubrs with one sinking. Another one limps along and one gets to go into Mainland Åland unharmed.
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