The aircraft, known as AU-2, was flown on its 90-minute transit from Lockheed Martin’s plant in Fort Worth, Texas, to Luke by U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Todd “Torch” LaFortune. It was then assigned to the 56th Fighter Wing, that already operated a fleet of 17 F-35s.
The arrival of AU-2 at Luke AFB marks the first of 10 international partners starting training in the US. The second F-35A for Australia, designated AU-1, is scheduled to arrive at Luke Air Force Base in the next few days.
The RAAF is expected to operate 72 such multi-role planes from two airfields, Williamtown, in New South Wales, and Tindal, in the Northern Territory, along with the current fleet of Australian F/A-18F Super Hornet (some of those are deployed in the UAE to support U.S. led campaign against ISIS) and EA-18G Growler electronic warfare aircraft.
Air Force fuel trucks repainted to keep temperature within the F-35’s threshold.
According to an Air Force press release, the F-35 jets may face another issue.
The problem is not related to the jet itself, but to the fuel trucks thermal management: the Lightning II has a fuel temperature threshold and may not function properly if the fuel is delivered to the aircraft at high temperature. Should the temperature of the fuel get too high, the F-35 could face engine shutdowns.
Therefore trucks at Luke Air Force Base, in Arizona, where temperature can reach beyond 110° F (43° C) in summer months, were given a new look, by applying a two layer coating, dubbed “solar polyurethane enamel”, that will help prevent fuel stored in the tanks from over-heating.
However, the professionals providing the new coating of the trucks, said that the layer does not necessarily need to be white, since only the “reflective” coating is of white color. Additional green paint may be applied in order to add camouflage. Some of the Luke AFB specialists stated that this is still to be tested.
Nevertheless, the ground crew hope that the green color can be used again, keeping the temperatures down, since the white refueling trucks are visible at long distances.
White color is a definitely an intermediary-short term fix, mainly due to the tactical deficiencies it brings along. Long-term solutions?
The Air Force may change the composition of the fuel used by the Lightnings.
Another option is to refine the software used by the engine. Cost-wise, both these options are more expensive than re-painting the fuel trucks, which, as the Air Force claims, costs $3,900 per truck.
In the light of the more significant problems faced by the F-35 program, the fuel issue might just simply have been overlooked.
Nonetheless, as some analysts pointed out, it may add an overhead in terms of cost, management, procedures etc. meaning that the development of the F-35 would become a bit more expensive (and this would not be a good news).
“Dummy” weapons (identical in shape and weight to the original ones) were tested during 9 flights in different configurations of both weapons types on two F-35Bs, flown by Billie Flynn, Lockheed Martin’s F-35 test pilot and Squadron Leader Andy Edgell from the RAF.
According to the team, which included personnel from BAE Systems, “the initial tests are an important step in integrating weapons onto the F-35B, allowing test pilots to understand how they affect the way the aircraft performs and handles.”
Such tests are the first step towards full interoperability of the two weapons, already used by the Royal Air Force on its existing fleet, with the F-35B, destined to enter in UK’s active service, with both the RAF and Royal Navy by 2018.
As already highlighted in the past, whilst carrying significant payload on external wing pylons makes the JSF more “convincing” as a multi-role platform, it makes the plane much less stealthy as well.
U.S. Air Force is starting to integrate its F-35s and F-22s to improve fifth-generation tactics.
Four F-22 Raptors belonging to the the 94th Fighter Squadron, from Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia, deployed to Eglin Air Force Base, Florida to conduct joint training with the local-based F-35A Lightning IIs from the 58th Fighter Squadron.
The joint training was aimed at improving integration between the two most advanced radar-evading planes in service with the U.S. Air Force: flying mixed formations, the F-22s and F-35s flew OCA (offensive counter air), DCA (defensive counter air) and interdiction missions, maximizing the capabilities provided by operating two fifth-generation platforms together.
“The missions started with basic air-to-air and surface attacks,” said Maj. Steven Frodsham, F-22 pilot and 149th Fighter Squadron, Virginia Air National Guard in an Air Force press release. “As the training progressed, the missions developed into more advanced escort and defensive counter air fifth-generation integration missions.”
Earlier this year Chief of U.S. Air Force Air Combat Command Gen. Michael Hostage said the F-35 is what USAF needs to keep up with the adversaries but the F-22 Raptor will have to support the Joint Strike Fighter even though its service life extension and modernisation plan will cost a lot. Because, as he explained: “If I do not keep that F-22 fleet viable, the F-35 fleet frankly will be irrelevant. The F-35 is not built as an air superiority platform. It needs the F-22.”
That’s why the U.S. Air Force has already started to team Joint Strike Fighters with Raptors.
Following the first successful arrested landings (the second came on the same day, with F-35C CF-5), the two jets of the F-35 Lightning II Pax River Integrated Test Force from Air Test and Evaluation Squadron (VX) 23, performed a series of catapult launches, touch-and-gos and arrested landings.
On Nov. 13, at 6:01 p.m. (PST), the JSF had another first when it was launched for the first carrier-based night flight operations aboard the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN 68). After a series of planned touch-and-go landings, the aircraft came for an arrested landing at 6:40 pm.
Here’s an interesting video of the first night ops aboard a U.S. Navy flattop.