Tag Archives: Lightning II

F-35 test fleet completes surge

The F-35 Integrated Test Force (ITF) at Edwards Air Force Base, California, recently completed 25 missions comprising of 12 Weapons Delivery Accuracy (WDA) and 13 Weapon Separation Tests as part of a month-long weapon’s firing test surge. Historically, only one WDA take places every month given the myriad of coordination required.  The highest number previously accomplished in a month, was three in November of 2014 during 2B software testing.

These successful test events — performed using the F-35’s newest block 3F software — demonstrated the accuracy of the Lockheed Martin fighter jet.  Five of the test events featured dropping multiple weapons.  The F-35 weapons test team was given exclusive use of the Sea Test Range, an instrumented Pacific Ocean test area off the central coast near Point Mugu Naval Air Station, California.  Tests were also conducted at the US Navy’s China Lake Weapons Range, California and the White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico.

During the surge period, a total of 30 weapons were dropped or fired, including the Joint Direct Attack Munition, AIM-120 Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missile, GPS-guided 250-pound Small Diameter Bomb, AIM-9X Sidewinder air-to-air heat-seeking missile and GPS/laser-guided munition.

“The WDAs rely on the full capability of the F-35 — multiple sensors, navigation, weapons envelope, mission planning, data links and inter-agency range scheduling — all working in sequence to put steel on target,” said Lt. Gen. Chris Bogdan, F-35 Program Executive Officer.  “This was a tremendous effort by the F-35 test team.  They surged and worked seven days a week for more than a month to expend 30 ordnance and advance weapons testing.  This testing has moved us that much closer to delivering the full F-35 capability to warfighters within the next two years.”

The F-35 is a multi-role, next-generation fighter that combines advanced stealth with speed, agility and a 360-degree view of the battlespace.  The F-35 will form the backbone of air combat superiority for decades to come and replace legacy tactical fighter fleets with dominant air-to-air and air-to-ground capabilities to deter and defeat potential adversaries.

The US Marine Corps declared the F-35B combat-ready IOC in July 2015, the U.S. Air Force declared F-35A IOC earlier this August. The US Navy intends to attain F-35C IOC in 2018.  More than 200 F-35s have flown in excess of 66 thousand fleet-wide hours, with over 300 F-35 pilots and 3,000 maintainers trained to operate and support this next-generation aircraft.

Featured image (top): Several F-35s gather for take off from Edwards Air Force Base in May 2016. (Image © Elmer van Hest)

Japan shows its first Lightning II

The Japan Air Self Defence Force (JASDF) on Monday 15 August released the first images of its first Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning II. The aircraft is one of four to be built by Lockheed Martin in Fort Worth, Texas. The remaining 38 JASDF Lightnings will be build in a brand new Final Assembly and Check-Out  (FACO) in Nagoya, Japan.

According to the JASDF, the first F-35 is to ground tested in Fort Worth in August. Test flights should begin soon after. The introduction of the stealthy jet will be mean the beginning of the end for the F-4 Phantom in Japanese service.

Japan_F35

© 2016 Airheadsfly.com editor Elmer van Hest
Featured image (top): The first F-35A for Japan, seen in Fort Worth. (Image © JASDF
)

Lightning strikes thrice but fails to ‘wow!’ at Fairford

Lightning struck no less than three times at Fairford airbase in the UK on Friday 8 July, during the world’s biggest airshow that is also known as the Royal International Air Tattoo (RIAT). Three F-35 Lightning II  were seen flying, but all but the British jet failed to impress. It takes more than a couple of fly passes to really ‘wow!’ an audience, which must have been what the UK Ministry of Defence and Lockheed Martin were actually hoping for at Fairford.

Yes, the vertical landing of the UK F-35B was a sight to behold, but it was awkward to witness a United States Marines Corps (USMC) F-35B earlier on Friday for what was the type’s very first actual public display in the UK – only to see it fly by unassumingly a couple of times beneath a USMC KC-130J tanker aircraft and land only minutes after it took off. Even the associated commentary was dull and uninspiring.

The US Air Force F-35A from Luke Air Force Base, Arizona, did slightly better with an afterburner take off followed by formation fly passes with the true star of the show, which was the US Air Force F-22 Raptor display from Langley Air Force Base, Virginia. That’s how you wow an audience.

USMC_F35B
(Image © Elmer van Hest)
F22
(Image © Elmer van Hest)

Typhoon

The other star of the show, the Eurofighter Typhoon, did likewise and actually hit more than three times. Four solo Typhoons displays feature in the airshow program, along with a dozen or so jets in the static display. Very impressive was a full blown display by a combat configured aircraft – bombs and missiles attached – by a BAE Systems test pilot.

Typhoon2
(Image © Elmer van Hest)
Typhoon
(Image © Elmer van Hest)

Farnborough

The demonstration by the UK F-35B made up for some of the lacklustre Lightning II appearances earlier in the day, but again the deliverance and commentary was about as exciting as watching paint dry. The British Lightning II will also be present at next week’s Farnborough International Airshow. At Fairford, Lockheed Martin invited the media to learn all their is learn about the F-35. The Norwegians gave a full update on the status of their program.

Perhaps the Dutch indeed spoiled RIAT’s and Lockheed Martin’s party when they flew two F-35As to the Netherlands in May and spectacularly displayed them in a air power demonstration, complete with pyro technics – or perhaps we are spoiled. But the same can’t be said for the British taxpayers at Fairford, who pay a lot of money for RIAT airshow tickets, not to mention their new fighter jet that is the Lockheed Martin F-35B Lightning II. Both deserved better.

© 2016 Airheadsfly.com editor Elmer van Hest

RAF_F35B
(Image © Elmer van Hest)
F35_F22
(Image © Elmer van Hest)

 

 

 

 

Norway: F-35 our deterence, pilots fly all jets,

He can fly any fighter jet from any nation he wants, as long as it is a F-35A. Royal Norwegian Air Force pilot Lt. Col. Martin Tesli just does that, taking brand-new American, Australian or Italian Lightning II stealthy fighter jets to the sky at Luke AFB in Arizona.

“As long as l have my cartridge, I can get into any aircraft. I cannot fly the B and C versions of course, but for the A version it doesn’t matter from which nation the jet is. Between nations flying the F-35A is completely interchangable.”

Right choice

Tesli – callsign TinTin – is on the spearhead of NATO’s northernmost first line of defence: being in charge of the Norwegian detachment that is getting acquainted with its future fast jet. At the Lockheed Martin press briefing on 7 July at the RIAT at RAF Fairford he showed full confidence in the F-35 being THE right choice for the Scandinavian nation. Despite the fact that a lot of promised functions still give a system error in the pilot’s office.

Freedom

“The Norwegian air force needs to be able to operate freely, like the army and navy need to as well. The F-35 will give us that freedom. We no longer need other eyes on the target, we can find them ourselves in really all weather conditions at substantial longer ranges then we currently can with our F-16s.”

Territory

The current RNoAF jets go up in the air
in various configurations, not always with the right sensors or weapons load-out for a full multirole tasking. No more in the future, when the RNoAF F-35s always have all sensors on board. Which will come of handy when covering 320,000 km2 of land mass and 2 million square kilometres of sea territory that the Norwegian armed forces need to defend.

Icy runway

“We go up far north, in the Arctic. The
weather can be even worse up there than in England. And especially for landing – which we do in sometimes very bad conditions with fine snow blowing over the strip and an icy runway to touchdown on – we will have the dragchute.”

Having the extra breaking power, saves aircraft and probably pilots lifes, Lt. Col. Tesli says refering to the decades of experience with the dragchute equipped F-16s.

Sharing targeting information

For many operations the F-35
will do exactly what Norway needs, Lt. Col. Tesli feels. “With the new jet I can choose to be seen or not (for enemy aircraft). Targeting information can be much easier shared with for example Royal Norwegian Navy frigates, with the F-35 serving as a much better range expander than shipborne helicopters.”

Operating capability

Currently at Luke AFB, the RNoAF just received its third F-35, with number four arriving later in July. The Norwegians clocked under 300 hours on the F-35. “But we can build on the 16,000 hours of inflight experience from the other nations. That’s why Norway can reach initial operating capability much sooner than we would otherwise can ourselves.”

As soon as the RNoAF operates 24 jets – the size of a wing – they will declare IOC on the type. All F-35s will in principle operate from Ørland near Trondheim in the south of the long-stretched country, with a permanent forward detachment at Everness near Narvik in the far north. The latter – in practise a relocation of the current F-16 base in Bødo, further south, will help Norway to react more swiftly to Russian incursions in the Polar Circle and Norwegian territory there.

Deterence

Lt. Col. Martin Tesli puts the Norwegian choice for 57 F-35As this way: “We are a long-stretched country of only 5 million people. We don’t have the mass to create military advantage, we need technology. That is what the F-35 will provide. Equipped with the Norwegian-Australian Joint Strike Missile, the new stealthy multirole fighter will provide Norway with its deterence.”

© 2016 Airheadsfly.com senior contributor Marcel Burger, at RIAT 2016
Featured image: The first Royal Norwegian Air Force F-35 (Image © Lockheed Martin)

New flock of Lightnings in Europe

A new flock of F-35 Lightning IIs reached Europe on Wednesday 29 June. A Royal Air Force F-35B touched down at a rainy Fairford airbase on its first ever visit to the UK, accompanied by two United States Marine Corps (USMC) F-35Bs. The three jets arrived after a transatlantic flight from the US and will take part in airshows at Fairford and Farnborough over the next few weeks.

The aircraft’s arrival marks the second time in just over a month that Lockheed Martin’s 5th generation fighter jet flies to Europe. Last month, two Royal Netherlands Air Force F-35As arrived in the Netherlands for a three-week stay, also appearing at the type’s very first airshow outside the US.

The three jets were supposed to arrive on Monday already, but an issue with one of two supporting US Air Force tankers caused a 48-hour delay.


For Lockheed Martin, the F-35’s presence in Fairford and Farnborough is a major PR-moment, especially after the failed attempt to get the new jet to the UK in 2014. Joining the three F-35Bs should be two US Air Force F-35As from Luke Air Force Base. These are scheduled to arrive in the UK on Thursday.

The British F-35B should give a full role demo display, while the USMC jets will fly in formation with a KC-130 tanker during the airshow. The US Air Force F-35A is supposed to take part in a heritage flight. The airshow at Fairford also marks the first time the F-35 and its bigger stablemate, the F-22 Raptor, jointly take part in an airshow in European skies.

© 2016 Airheadsfly.com editor Elmer van Hest