Friday, July 23, 2010

F-35 sales tales: BMD edition...

I'm growing increasingly fascinated by the apparent sales practices of Lockheed Martin. I think this comes from selling mobile phones for exactly long enough (hours) to be told to lie, spin and dazzle if need be, but get them to sign. I never sold a phone and didn't make a cent. I've never trusted a salesperson since and generally assume I'm being lied to either by commission or ommission.

Via the Aviation Week crew watching the Farnborough Fun Flyers:

The Joint Strike Fighter distributed aperture system (DAS) could be useful for ballistic missile defense [BMD], according to Tom Burbage, executive vice president of F-35 program integration at Lockheed Martin.

During a recent flight of the system on Northrop Grumman’s BAC-111 test bed near Baltimore, Md., the EO/IR system captured the launch of a Falcon 9 rocket from 650 mi. away. Burbage dropped that little nugget during his JSF briefing for reporters July 19 at the Farnborough Air Show.

To be fair, he notes that missile defense is not currently a mission for JSF. But, during an interview later with Aviation Week, he said that the sensor capabilities of the aircraft could be useful for this role.
However, Bill Sweetman in the comments notes that this might a little bit of a stretch.
I thought the idea of airborne infrared was to track the missile in ascent after burnout, which is a rather different kettle of fish from watching a Falcon launch with all nine Merlins going full blast. You might want a bit more aperture than DAS to do that.
Ballistic Missile Defence is a touchy issue in Canada. I can hear the Opposition challenge "F35 Part of Conservative Plan to Sign Canada on to BMD"...and of course the reality challenged Cons will probably think the tooth fairy just left a complete Distributed Aperture Radar system under their pillow, and send letters to Lockheed Martin asking "really really can it really?" And Lockheed Martin will lick its chops and sweetly say...?

Yeah, this could get messy.

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