Speaking to Raytheon – the firm charged with the fit out – Defence Connect was able to glean some invaluable insights from the firm’s director of emerging markets Mark Noyes.
"The beauty of the F-35 is … it’s got an internal bay and that internal bay can house a number of weapons," said Noyes. "So if the Australian Air Force decided to go in and they have an air-to-ground mission, a bombing mission, they can put up to eight SDB II bombs into the internal bay of the F-35 without ever compromising the stealth capability of that F-35."
Noyes also explained how, in addition, the RAAF could arm its F-35s with two AMRAAM AIM-120 air-to-air missiles. This, he noted, meant that the F-35 could not only carry out a direct attack air-to-ground mission, but it would also be able to cover an air-to-air mission, "to maintain that air superiority that's so important for the ground troops and for the sea forces for whom they're providing coverage".
"Now if the F-35 is determined to be doing an air-to-ground mission only, let's say a direct attack mission because Australians have air superiority over their area of interest or contested air space, then if they've got air superiority they could actually load 16 SDB IIs externally on the F-35, and that's a tremendous amount of firepower, something you really don't see in today's conventional fighters," he said.
To hear more from Raytheon, tune in to our podcast with Mark Noyes and electronic warfare systems business development lead Jason Nelson here.