Northrop Grumman has tested the ballistic missile defence (BMD) capabilities of the AN/AAQ-37 electro-optical distributed aperture system (DAS) for the F-35 Lightning II joint strike fighter.

During the test, the DAS successfully detected and tracked a two-stage rocket launch at a distance of over 800 miles aboard a BAC 1-11 testbed aircraft.

The DAS system includes multiple sensors, the images of which are fused together to create a seamless picture. It can pick up targets without assistance from an external cue.

It also provides pilots a 360° spherical day / night vision with the capability to see through the floor of the aircraft.

Northrop Grumman programme director for F-35 sensors Dave Bouchard said the DAS software architecture already included missile detection and tracking algorithms that could be applied to the BMD mission.

The AN/AAQ-37 DAS is a high-resolution omni-directional infrared sensor system that provides advanced spherical situational awareness capability including missile and aircraft detection, track and warning capabilities for the F-35 joint strike fighter.