Despite being among the most technologically advanced low-observable warplanes on the planet, the Lockheed Martin F-35 has one significant shortcoming. The Joint Strike Fighter cannot strike moving ground targets using the targeting system and weapons loadout delivered in its final combat Lightning II configuration, Block 3F.This has fiasco written all over it.
The challenge is the F-35 is currently unable to lead a target with its laser designator to compensate for movement. This means the aircraft is limited to striking fixed or slow-moving objects such as the surface-to-air missiles it has proven so skilled at destroying in Red Flag exercises.
The F-35 has already entered service with the U.S. Marine Corps (F-35B Block 2B) and Air Force (F-35A Block 3i), equipped with the laser-guided 500-lb. Raytheon/Lockheed GBU-12 Paveway II and GPS/IMU-guided 2,000- and 1,000-lb. Boeing GBU-31/32 Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM). Block 3F will add the 1,000-lb. Raytheon AGM-154 Joint Standoff Weapon (F-35C), 250-lb. Boeing GBU-39 Small-Diameter Bomb Increment 1 (F-35A), and the United Kingdom’s 500-lb. Raytheon UK Paveway IV (F-35B).
Those weapons can take out fixed or stationary targets, but not fast-movers such as tanks, trucks or mobile command posts. They would have some utility against relocatable, slow-moving targets if the F-35 had a lead-laser capability, which comes standard in modern targeting pods fielded on legacy, nonstealthy combat fighters and bombers. Weapons capable of automatically adjusting for so-called Kentucky windage without lead-laser correction will not arrive on the F-35 until the early 2020s as part of the Block 4 follow-on modernization program, under the existing plan.
26 February 2017
It appears that after years of development, and billions of dollars, the F-35 cannot hit a moving target: