What is the Real Technical Risk for F-35 if Turkey has the S-400 Anti-Aircraft System?

WASHINGTON, the U.S. (BulgarianMilitary.com) – The disagreement over the S-400 exacerbates the strategic and tactical concerns that exist in an already shaky alliance, reported BulgarianMilitarty.com, quoting Defense News

“The whole ‘Should Turkey be in NATO?’ question pops up a lot, and is inevitable,” said Rick Berger, a defense budget and military acquisition researcher at AEI and former Senate Budget Committee staffer.

Read more: If Turkey Is Ejected from the F-35 Program, It Would Deal an Immediate Blow to the Production Rate for New Planes

If Turkey acquired the S-400 alongside the F-35, the technology that makes that aircraft lethal could potentially be compromised.

NATO states use a tactical data link that allows military aircraft and even ships and ground troops to share their tactical pictures in near-real time. This is called Link 16. NATO aircraft also use Identification Friend or Foe systems, known as IFF, to identify friendly aircraft in the sky.

An IFF and Link 16 interrogator would have to be integrated into the S-400 system to allow the Turkish F-35, with the transponder, to fly within lethal range of the S-400.

Read more: USA to Turkey: Because of the Russian S-400 Your Deliveries Associated with F-35 Have Been Suspended

This opens up all Link 16 and IFF tactical data link equipment to be compromised, a former radar and weapons expert said on background.

“With the F-35 flying in close proximity to the S-400 system, over time, you could collect sensitive stealth characteristics of this F-35 and learn its detailed stealth capabilities,” the expert said.

The waveform off the Lightning II’s stealthy surfaces and its transmissions are highly classified in order to protect radar operating parameters, stealth technology and encrypted Link 16 codes.

For instance, “when you know the waveform, you can spoof them,” sending a fake signal to a receiver in order to trick an operator.

Read more: Erdogan Says Turkey Won’t Turn Back From S-400 Deal with Russia

The concern is not necessarily that the Turkish military would compromise this sensitive data, but instead that malware on the S-400 or Russian workers operating, setting up or maintaining the system would access the info.

These S-400s are highly networked, with nodes spanning hundreds of miles. There would be multiple, vulnerable nodes that could potentially broadcast sensitive data back to Russia or, perhaps, the highest bidder.

Even operating U.S. Air Force F-35s out of Incirlik Air Base could become difficult if an S-400 was nearby.

Read more: Turkey will Start Deployment of the Russian S-400 systems in October 2019

Convincing the Turkish government, particularly its authoritarian president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, that the move to buy the Russian system wasn’t in their best interest should have been relatively easy, Berger said.

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BulgarianMilitary.com
Author: Joe Gould

Source: Defense News

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