Category Archives: F-35

First Australian F-35 has arrived for training at Luke Air Force Base

The first Royal Australian Air Force F-35A Lightning II jet landed at Luke Air Force Base marking the first international partner F-35 to arrive for training at the airbase in Arizona.

On Dec. 18, the first Australian F-35A Lightning jet arrived at Luke Air Force Base where it will be used for pilot training beginning in 2015.

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.

As a side note, Luke AFB is the base where fuel trucks have been given a two layer coating of “solar polyurethane enamel” (whose outer color is white) to prevent fuel stored in the tanks from over-heating with consequent F-35 engine issues.

RAAF F-35 Luke taxi

Image credit: U.S. Air Force

 

Fuel Trucks for the F-35 Painted White to keep the Jet Fuel Cool (and prevent engine shutdowns)

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.

fuel truck

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).

Image credit: U.S. Air Force

 

F-35B successfully completed initial tests with ASRAAM and Paveway IV weapons

UK F-35B has conducted first tests with ASRAAM and Paveway IV weapons at Patuxent River Naval Air Station in Maryland, United States.

A British test team, has successfully completed initial trials with ASRAAM (Advanced Short Range Air-to-Air Missile) missiles and Paveway IV LGBs (Laser Guided Bombs) on the F-35B, the STOVL (Short Take Off Vertical Landing) variant of the Joint Strike Fighter, at NAS Patuxent River, US.

“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.

Image credit: BAE Systems

 

U.S. Air Force teaming F-22s with F-35s to maximise their 5th Generation capabilities

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.”

Fifth-generation capabilities had their combat debut with the F-22 in the air-to-ground role during the early stages of Operation Inherent Resolve, against ISIS targets in Iraq and Syria. The successful baptism of fire reaffirmed the pivotal role played by stealth technologies and sensor fusion capabilities, brought together by 5th Gen. warplanes, in current scenarios.

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.

Image credit: U.S. Air Force

 

Video of F-35C jet’s first carrier-based night flight operations aboard aircraft carrier

F-35C Lightning II Conducts First Night Flight Ops During Developmental Testing aboard USS Nimitz

On Nov. 3, F-35C CF-3 piloted by Navy test pilot Cmdr. Tony Wilson, conducted the very first arrested landing of the Joint Strike Fighter plane on a supercarrier.

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.

Image credit: U.S. Navy