Given the Russian Federation’s blatant efforts to destabilize Europe and present itself as a military threat to the West, an unsettling development revealed via The Daily Beast’s Dave Majumdar is only likely to make a dangerous situation in Eurasia worse.
The report revealed that the Pentagon is increasingly worried that the supremely maneuverable F-22’s long-range air-to-air missiles could be obsolete in fight against adversaries like Russia and China. They fear that this aircraft anti-air ordnance could be jammed, and American fighters would be almost entirely unable to neutralize enemy aircraft.
The problem is that many potential adversaries, such as the Chinese and the Russians, have developed advanced digital radio frequency memory (DRFM) jammers. These jammers, which effectively memorize an incoming radar signal and repeat it back to the sender, seriously hamper the performance of friendly radars.
Worse, these new jammers essentially blind the small radars found onboard air-to-air missiles like the Raytheon AIM-120 AMRAAM, which is the primary long-range weapon for all U.S. and most allied fighter planes.
That means it could take several missile shots to kill an enemy fighter, even for an advanced stealth aircraft like the Raptor. “While exact Pk [probability of kill] numbers are classified, let’s just say that I won’t be killing these guys one for one,” the senior Air Force official said. It’s the “same issue” for earlier American fighters like the F-15, F-16, or F/A-18.
Another Air Force official with experience on the stealthy new F-35 Joint Strike Fighter agreed. “AMRAAM’s had some great upgrades over the years, but at the end of the day, it’s old technology and wasn’t really designed with today’s significant [electronic attack] in mind,” this official said.
This is a problem that can be remedied, but, according to The Daily Beast’s sources, it would require the development and deployment of an entirely new set of air-to-air projectiles. That is an expensive and onerous prospect, and one which would take years to complete.
Majumdar’s report adds that Russia is developing its own revolutionary long-range weapon called the K-100 that can outperform anything in the American arsenal.
“Right now, the Defense Department—led by the Navy—is working to increase the range of the AIM-9X version of the Sidewinder by 60 percent to give the Pentagon’s fighter fleet some sort of counter to the jamming problem,” Majumdar’s report read. “But even with the extended reach, the modified Sidewinder won’t have anywhere close to the range of an AMRAAM.”
A few days ago, I took a cursory look at the condition which might rationally lead Russia to determine that it would be a wise course to militarily test NATO’s resolve to defend its member states in Eastern Europe. While this would probably be a miscalculation on Russia’s part, the error of this course may not be readily apparent to policy makers in the Kremlin. Miscalculations, as I wrote, have a habit of leading to conflagrating conflicts.
Nothing is more likely to lead a nation to miscalculate into a war than the logical belief that it could be won. The acknowledgement that Russia could neutralize American air-to-air missile systems is a disturbingly destabilizing development.