F-35 Stealth Jet Modernization Program Will Allow For Directed Energy Weapons

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Pratt & Whitney, a division of United Technologies corp., announced last Thursday a ‘Growth Option 2.0’ upgrade for the F135 engine, which powers the fifth-generation Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II, that could provide increased power and thermal management system (PTMS) capacity.

“As the F-35 program moves forward with the Continuous Capability Development and Delivery (C2D2) strategy, we strive to stay in front of propulsion advances needed to enable F-35 modernization,” said Matthew Bromberg, president, Pratt & Whitney Military Engines. “We’re continuously assessing customer needs and responding with technology options to keep them ahead of evolving threats.”

According to Aviation Week & Space Technology, additional engine power and thermal management capabilities of the F135 engine will allow for the use of directed energy weapons and other Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) inspired armaments, and if approved, would be featured in an upgrade package called Growth Option 2.0 (GO2).

Pratt & Whitney describes GO2 as an upgraded compressor and turbine technologies that significantly increases PTMS. This enables the fifth-generation fighter to burn less fuel, increase thrust, and enables it to fire exotic directed energy weapon systems.

“Growth Option 2.0 incorporates the same suite of compressor and turbine technologies offered in the previously announced Growth Option 1.0, and also brings scaled advances in PTMS capacity while maintaining the same fuel burn (5-6 percent) and thrust improvements (6-10 percent) across the F-35 flight envelope. By selecting from the engine’s full suite of available technologies, F-35 customers can chose the magnitude of PTMS improvements that the mission requires.

Increases in PTMS can enable the F-35 to utilize an enhanced spectrum of offensive and defensive weapon system technologies. Growth Option 2.0 can provide a significant improvement in PTMS capacity in the near-term by utilizing several low-risk technologies ready for Engineering and Manufacturing Development (EMD) today. Pratt & Whitney is also maturing additional technologies that are projected to provide even greater PTMS capability,” said Pratt & Whitney.

GO2 represents the next phase of Pratt & Whitney’s Future Adaptive Spiral Technology approach, which enables the integration of next-generation propulsion technologies into current and future platforms. The company is set to unleash a suite of new adaptive engine technologies to meet the demands of range, persistence, survivability, maintainability, and advanced weapon systems [lasers turrets] for the modern battlefield. In other words, the defense manufacturer indicates that advanced technologies can be smoothly transitioned as they become available.

“Our spiral approach allows Pratt & Whitney to offer rapid, iterative upgrades such as Growth Option 1.0 and Growth Option 2.0 that put next-generation propulsion technologies into the hands of the warfighter as fast as possible,” added Bromberg. “These upgrades are aligned with the F-35 C2D2 strategy and provide a range of options to meet future weapons system requirements for the F135 engine.”

Back in 2014, Lockheed Martin, Notre Dame University, DARPA and the Air Force Research Lab (AFRL) started flight testing a miniaturized airborne laser turret.

This new directed energy weapon turret allows for 360 degrees aiming coverage for future military aircraft in the not so distant future.

Earlier this month, Lockheed senior fellow for laser and sensor systems said at a media briefing:

“We’re looking at concepts for the integration of a laser weapon onto the F-35. We’re also looking at the utility and doing models and calculations so you would understand the utility of a laser weapon system in the F-35.”

General Ellen Pawlikowski, commander of Air Force Materiel Command, said recently that the US Air Force is continuing efforts to field directed energy weapons:

“I think we’re on the cusp of actually being able to field a true laser weapon within the next five to six years. We’ve got an activity that’s going forward, to put a laser on a fighter aircraft, not to blow up scud missiles or to win in a dogfight, but as an air defense.

And there it is, as soon as the fifth-generation stealth fighter receives its upgraded Pratt & Whitney F135 engines, then, that is when directed energy weapons will be mounted on the aircraft and rapidly deployed to an airbase in either Europe or Asia – ready for deployment in the next round of hybrid wars set to accelerate by the mid 2020s.

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