Is the F-35 in the Middle East threatened by Iran’s X-band radar?

PANAGYURISHTE ($1=1.90 Bulgarian Levs) — Most recently, Iran unveiled an upgraded version of its Bavar-373 anti-aircraft missile system. This happened on November 8th during testing. Bavar-373 made a radar lock on a target at a distance of about 400 km and destroyed it at a distance of 300 km. Just for comparison, before the modernization Bavar-373 detected a target of up to 350 km.

Iran introduced an air defense system analogous to the current S-300 and S-400
Photo credit: Defence-blog

The missile that the Bavar-373 fired during the tests was the Sayyad B4. This is a long-range missile. More curious is what was used as the interception target. According to open sources, it was the HESA Karrar drone.

This drone is not stealthy. Its radar cross-section [RCS] gravitates around the value of 1.64 square meters. But according to Iranian sources [@Pataramesh], the X-band radar was activated and intercepted the HESA Karrar at a distance of 376 km.

A senior officer from the command of the Islamic Republic of Iran Air Defense Forces [IRIADF] told Iran’s Tasnim news agency that the HESA Karrar was destroyed at an altitude of just over 12 km.

Lockheed F-35 Lightning II stealth fighters are known to have a radar cross-section of 0.0015 – 0.005 square meters. According to Iranian expert @Pataramesh, Bavar-373 can intercept F-35 at a distance of 90 km from the system’s radar. He makes these calculations based on already available data from the HESA Karrar intercept with a radar cross-section of 1.64 square meters.

F-35 Lightning II fighter jet
Photo credit: Twitter

That, however, is wrong, say other military experts in the field. You cannot reduce the distance between the aircraft and the X-band radar and, reaching the value of 0.0015 – 0.005 of the radar cross-section, calculate the remaining distance to the aircraft, claiming that this is the distance at which the aircraft is detectable for interception.

@Pataramesh, however, tries to justify his claims by opening a loophole in them – the interception of the F-35 by the Bavar-373 is possible if the missile has Semi-active radar homing (SARH) or the Seeker Aided Ground Guidance [SAGG]. However, there is also a crack in the Iranian expert’s claims here. These missiles with similar guidance, Western experts say, rely on picking up radar signals reflected from the target. But that is precisely why a one-armed weapon is called a stellate – precisely because it hardly reflects such signals.

As for the X-range radar, the manufacturers from Lockheed Martin have dealt with this type of radar already during the very construction of the aircraft, i.e. @Pataramesh’s claims are simply invalid. Thomas Whittington, who consults EurAsiaTimes, says the X-band radar was one of the first key radars that experts predicted they would have to eliminate when designing the aircraft.

Whittington debunks Iran’s claims by examining the issue but from the F-35 pilot’s side. He says there is no way the Bavar-373 can radar-lock an F-35 if the pilot can take countermeasures and affect Iran’s radar capabilities to the point of even “taking it out of the game.”

Iran is apparently looking for a way to intercept stealth fighter jets in the area from Israel’s air force. @Pataramesh is trying to find a solution by making various assumptions about possible solutions. One such is the use of the Russian 1L119 NEBO SVU AESA radar. It is a 3D VHF radar.

Is the F-35 in the Middle East threatened by Iran's X-band radar?
Photo credit: Wikipedia

Now, not only Iranian but also Russian experts claim that this radar “hunts” F-35 stealth fighters. VHF radars are interested in a slightly different wavelength – between one and three meters. According to Russian experts, there are certain points on the F-35 that are of interest to VHF radars. These are the nose of the aircraft, the inlet nozzle, and the connections between the fuselage, wings, and canopies. It is there that the wave dispersion is expected to be two meters or less than two meters. I.e. these points are of interest to VHF radars.

However, VHF radars have one serious problem – insufficient accuracy. I.e. the missile must pass very close to the aircraft to activate the radar on board the missile to detect the target. However, the Russians claim their radar can detect and track a target with an RCS of 0.1 square meters at ranges above 100 kilometers, according to Russian sources who did not specify the exact range.


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