First of all let us be clear. We love your work. It's informative and on point.

Second the premise is absolutly correct: modern armed forces can't really cope (at least yet) with most high density swarms so the development of co-packaged optics for RF Phased arrays is absolutly VERY important.

That being said there is a slew of things we disagree with and a couple of things that might be incorrect.

First picture is a chinese J20 not an F22 or F35. They are different creatures. The F22 has more then 15 years under its belt and it is still top of class. The J20 has more in common with the F35 and is an hybrid between an F35, a russian Su57 and an F22. But, at least as far as we know, the biggest thing it shares with the F22 is some of its avionics and airframe design and that is because the PLA LOVES western tech. It doesn't mean it has the same level of functionality or battlefield prowess of even the F35 though.

As far as the NGAD, Multi-Domain combat and JADC2 go, RCS (Radar Cross Section. A rough estimation of what a modern radar can capture of a veichle to lock on a missile) is key to understand how tenable this type of force structure is.

We are basically talking about high tech real time information, air, sea, space and ground warfare through coordination between airplane, navy, satellite, onshore and offshore capabilities. Depending on who you ask this stuff is either awesome or useless. Unfortunatly loads of people consider the F35 useless because of its high cost, high maintenance and think that the information advantage granted by JADC2 (Joint All Domain Command and Control) is overhyped, ESPECIALLY in the context of a full blown war where satellite and communications systems could be sent offline for a long time.

In that environment what matters is mobility, self reliance, RCS, range and how many engines you have. This is also the reason why an F22 isn't sold on the market, and probably never will be, but an F35 is.

The F22 has great tech, great range, great mobility, unbelivable RCS and two engines. F35 has less of all of this things, it's still a good platform but has only one engine and is used more like a bomber. This is also why a lot of people hate the thing: becuase they see an airplane that doesn't know what it is.

This is without talking about the politics of the platform, the repeatedly botched design, all sorts of problems with the engine of the F35, its weight, problems with the ejection system (which themselves might have been political), ecc...

The F22 had some problems but the design wasn't as flawed because it was ultimately thought of as a brawler and a stealth fighter, which means that you should be able to take a hit with it and the thing that hit you should be dead by the time it has pushed the button to attack. And today that is mainly thanks to an RCS that is estimated to be between 1000 times and 50.000 times lower then the J20.


We are leaving outside of the debate loads of aspects such as the logistics of spare parts, refueling, AWACS (very important actually), submarine warfare, navy strike group dynamics to name a few.

There is also a vocal, and somewhat respectable actually, part of the US and non-US veteran community that thinks that this whole JADC2 shtick is useless because what is needed is a fighter that is easy to build, easy to manage, easy to repair....easy. Because when you are at war stockpiles finish quickly and you already have the problem of the enemy attacking your industrial plants....and you want that plants to work and be able to produce said spare parts so that you can get planes back in the fight.

This is also why the J20 is a different beast from the F35. We know that the chinese have increasingly indigenous ways to produce it and refurbish or repair its systems. It's simpler, less refined, not as good and not as functional. But it's also supposedly easier to build.

One of the best short explanations on what is wrong with all of this.


This isn't to say that the article isn't good, because it is a pretty good analysis of an important subject. The problem is that what is probably needed to handle drone swarms and swarms in general is Multilayered Defense AKA big guns shooting a lot, quickly and somewhat precisely. In that sense RF are needed to guide the shot.

That being siad the russians are already learning how to shield CIVILIAN drones from RF sources. New optics probably won't change the problems derived from the digitalization of warfare, the lack of depth in modern fighter jets designs or the general movement of modern warfare towards grisly, stealthy, in the trenches, first slow then quick contemporary type of fighting.

Expand full comment

Dylan — what are your thoughts on ALL.SPACE’s multi-beam digital beamforming satelilite terminals? Does their innovation solve some of the needs that you’re describing?

Expand full comment

"It’s unknown if modern militaries can combat or even reliably track a high-density swarm of these new weapons with existing capabilities."

Israel has been facing a similar threat for the last decade and a half. I would be interested to see your analysis on their Iron Dome system, and whether it solves the problem set posed by drone swarms.

Expand full comment