Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Death Ray (Well, Sort Of)

I assume that ballistic missiles are hardened too much for AESA (Active Electronically Scanned Array) radars to work against them (and possibly going too fast for a fighter aircraft to aim at), but it will still have lots of useful weapons use:

While AESA makes fighters much more effective, it's the many other uses of AESA that make this technology so attractive to warplane designers. For example, the U.S. Air Force has been equipping some of its fighters with electronic ray type weapons. Not quite the “death ray” of science fiction fame, but an electronic ray type weapon none the less. In this case, the weapon uses the high-powered microwave (HPM) effects found in AESA radar technology. AESA is able to focus a concentrated beam of radio energy that could scramble electronic components of a distant target. Sort of like the EMP (Electromagnetic Pulse) put out by nuclear weapons. The air force won’t, for obvious reasons, discuss the exact “kill range” of the of the various models of AESA radars on American warplanes (the F-35 and F-22 have them). However, it is known that “range” in this case is an elastic thing. Depending on how well the target electronics are hardened against EMP, more electrical power will be required to do damage. Moreover, the electrical power of the various AESA radars in service varies as well. The air force has said that the larger AESA radars it is developing would be able to zap cruise missile guidance systems up to 180 kilometers away.

Heck, I might even become comfortable with fighters without cannons if they have AESA and sufficient power sources.