During a recent drill in the New Mexico desert, US Army artillery units used targeting information given them by an Air Force F-35A to fire at their targets. The successful test reinforces the trend toward a new mission profile for the stealthy jet: that of battlefield “quarterback,” coordinating the myriad moving parts of other military assets.
It’s a case of getting back to basics: some of the first aircraft, such as balloons and biplanes, were used primarily for artillery spotting. Now, one of the planet’s most advanced stealth aircraft has found itself doing just that.
During an exercise last month at the Doña Ana Range in eastern New Mexico, a USAF F-35A used its wide array of sensors to feed targeting information about a mock air defense system to a unit of US Army M109A6 Paladin mobile howitzers, enabling them to fire at and destroy the target.
“Today we are working with the Air Force and we are testing the ability of the US Army’s field artillery to receive messages from an F-35, a fifth-generation fighter jet, for possible fire missions,” Maj. William O’Neil, who directed the unit’s fire support, said in a statement carried on DVIDS. “While we are using canons today, the M109A6 Paladins, the goal is how we integrate a Tomahawk Cruise Missile and other missile units at the division level into Joint Fires.”
During the drill, the F-35 picked out the air defense system as a target from 30,000 feet up and 30 miles away – a…