April 2015. Over a landscape made all the more surreal by the dim light of a waning moon, an F-22 continues its patrol, the sensors embedded in its skin alive, searching. Across the night sky digital datalinks reach out, carrying their payload of data – a threat radar to the east – a Navy EA-18G is taking the matter into it’s own hands, a flight of F-35s inbound to strike a suspected WMD facility, more warnings of hostile aircraft to the north as the AWACS silently passes data on a pair of Flankers attempting to launch – that will be taken care of by another flight of F-22s. Tonight this F-22 is hunting different prey as it and several others are awaiting the possible launch of a mobile IRBM. Netted with relatives of the now long departed Predator and a Navy BAMS UAS, all tied together in the afloat JFACC, they wait in silence for their cue. This night, strapped to a special carriage is a modified Terminal High Altitude Area Defense missile – THAAD it is commonly called. And tonight, they are hunting the big game…
Far-fetched? Not if you believe recent reports of the possible revival of the Air Launched Hit-to-Kill program:
“The Air Force wants to look at arming fighter jets to shoot down ballistic missiles, according to a letter from Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz to the head of the Defense Department’s Missile Defense Agency. The June 2 letter from Schwartz, addressed to the MDA director, Army Lt. Gen. Patrick O’Reilly, called for a study of arming F-15s and F-16s, and possibly F-22s and F-35s, with specialized munitions under a concept dubbed Air Launched Hit-to-Kill. Schwartz said a 2008 war game, based in the European theater in 2020, piqued the interest of the Air Force to study the ALHK concept.
The ALHK strategy would have roving packs of fighters, along with a support network of tankers and reconnaissance and radar aircraft to intercept missiles in rapidly established protection zones.
For high atmospheric interception, the paper suggested the Air Force consider a modified Terminal High Altitude Area Defense missile, a 1,500-pound version of an Army ground-based missile.
For use lower in the atmosphere, the paper suggested using an Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile designed to intercept shorter-range ballistic missiles. The missiles, according to the developer, Raytheon Co., would fit into any AMRAAM-capable fighter with minimum modifications.”
It has been said quantity is a quality of its own – that is usually the case where offense is concerned. Seems like a good idea for missile defense too, given the growth rate in numbers and capability of fielded BMDs now and as projected in the near future…