Category Archives: F-35

[Photo] Two Lightnings fly together: F-35A and P-38 over Luke Air Force Base

F-35 P-38

On Mar. 14, 2014, Luke Air Force Base hosted a ceremony for the arrival of the first F-35 (Tail Number LF 5030), the 5th generation stealth fighter that will equip the 56th Fighter Wing.

“The F-35 Lightning II represents the future of tactical aviation for the United States and our allies.” With these words, U.S. Air Force Gen. Robin Rand, Commander, Air Education and Training Command, Randolph Air Force Base, Texas accepted the first of 144 F-35As to be delivered to the 56th FW.

Rand remarked that the arrival of the first Luke’s F-35 is a milestone for the Joint Strike Fighter Program and for the base itself because “this program is built on a foundation of unprecedented international partnership that is embodied at the integrated training center at Luke AFB. Together, we will train the next generation of pilots who will protect freedom at home and abroad.”

Built and developed to replace a wide variety of aircraft such as the A-10 and F-16 for the U.S. Air Force, the F/A-18 for the U.S. Navy, the F/A-18 and AV-8B Harrier for the U.S. Marine Corps plus other several types of fourth generation aircraft in numerous air forces worldwide, “the F-35 Lightning II will provide the USAF and international partners a decisive edge over its adversaries” said Lockheed Martin F-35 program general manager Lorraine Martin.

To celebrate this achievement, following the F-35 delivery ceremony, an example of World War II P-38 Lightning fighter took the skies over Luke Air Force base alongside with an F-35 Lightning II performing a typical heritage flyby to celebrate Lockheed legacy between these namesake machines.

Name aside, considering that the Lightning II is still affected by several problems, the question is: will the F-35 able to replicate the success of its predecessor?

Image credit: Lockheed Martin

 

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Italy to axe more F-35s and one aircraft carrier (which appears on eBay)

F-35A LF

Italy’s new Government is considering another cut of its order of 90 F-35s. But the Spending Review is targeting Rome’s older aircraft carrier. Which has already appeared on eBay.

Although nothing has been decided yet, it’s hard to believe the current plan to buy 90 F-35 to replace the aging fleet of Tornado IDS, AMX (Italian Air Force) and AV-8B+ (Italian Navy) will survive the cuts already announced by the new Renzi cabinet.

Italy plans to save 3 billion Euro (4.18 billion USD) in defense savings over the next three years, money that will come from the sale of some barracks and military buildings, from a reduction of the personnel, and from cuts to some top spending programs, first of all the F-35, on which the government has so far committed to spend some 12 billion Euro.

Dealing with the F-35, the order will be “revised,” meaning that cuts are certain, considering the amount of attention and criticism that surround the program. But, it is almost impossible to predict the extent of the revision.

Some media outlets have foreseen a drastic cut to 45 planes, half of the current plan, and about one third of the initial requirement, set to 131 Joint Strike Fighters.

The center-left PD (Democratic Party) defense committee has just published a paper about the current state of Italy’s weapons systems, highlighting the need for a significant reduction on F-35 procurement, because:

  • the program does not guarantee industrial gains for Italian industry
  • is characterized by too much variability (in terms of cost)
  • current costs do not include armament
  • Italy will not be allowed to access core sensitive technology, an embargo which “determines a factor of operational dependency on American political-industrial instances

The 10-page paper (in Italian, can be downloaded here) envisages an Air Force with two front line combat planes: the F-35 and the Eurofighter Typhoon. Noteworthy, the document highlights the multi-role capability demonstrated by the latter; it seems quite likely that, sooner or later, considered the cuts to the F-35s, the Italian Air Force (that so far has employed the Typhoon as an air superiority platform) will eventually commit its F-2000s to the air-to-surface role as done by the UK since Libya Air War.

Another issue raised by the document is the cost of the “operational redundancy” caused by the Italian Navy’s two aircraft carriers. The most obvious candidate to be scrapped is the Garibaldi, Italy’s first post-war aircraft carrier.

The Garibaldi, joined by the larger and more capable Cavour in 2008, could be sold to some emerging country looking for second-hand helicopter carrier capable to support Amphibious Assault operations.

In the meanwhile, you can place a bid to buy the Italian aircraft carrier on the auction someone has wryly put on eBay.

Garibaldi on eBay

 

Image credit: Lockheed Martin (top); eBay screenshot (above).

 

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[Photo] First F-35B short take-off and vertical landing sortie by British pilot at Eglin

First F-35B UK

First STOVL sortie at Eglin for a RAF pilot

On Feb. 25, Royal Air Force pilot, Squadron Leader Hugh Nichols, flew in a U.S. Marine Corps F-35B Lightning II during the first short take-off and vertical landing sortie by a United Kingdom pilot at Eglin Air Force Base, in Florida, where British pilots and ground crews are undertaking training alongside their Marines counterparts.

The USMC began flying STOVL sorties at Eglin in October last year.

Beginning in 2018, the F-35B STOVL (Short Take Off Vertical Landing) should operate from Royal Navy’s Queen Elizabeth aircraft carriers.

Image credit: U.S. Air Force

 

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Poland about to buy 64 fifth generation fighter jets. But F-35s seem to be unaffordable

F-35 Poland

Poland about to buy fifth generation fighter jets. Which ones is still unclear.

During a conference held on Feb. 6, 2014, Ministry of National Defence announced Poland will buy 64 fifth generation jets.

The new aircraft will be delivered between 2022 and 2030. In the meanwhile the Su-22 Fitters, initially set to be retired by 2015, will be modernized and kept flyable until the new planes arrive.

The sum allocated to the procurement of the future aircraft is around 2.8B Polish Zloty (930M USD).

Considered the strong ties with Lockheed Martin (the Polish Air Force already operates the F-16 Block 52+), the first candidate for the role of Warsaw’s future aircraft is the F-35. But since F-35A has a pricetag around 100 USD million apiece, the purchase of the Joint Strike Fighter is quite unlikely.

The Lightning II is very expensive, and would seriously hamper the rest of the Polish Armed Forces modernization plan, which includes new helicopters, submarines, new air defenses and anti-missile shield.

Image Credit: Lockheed Martin

Jacek Siminski for TheAviationist

 

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[Composite Image] F-35A AF-1 completing a 360-degree roll with external load

F-35 roll

Composite image, built from 17 photos of the F-35 doing an aileron roll.

The maneuver itself is far from being special. It’s a standard 360-degree roll, that the F-35A AF-1 completes with external weapons load (4 x GBU-12s and 2 AIM-9Xs).

Still, the composite image is quite interesting as it shows the whole maneuver in a singole composite photo, which shows the Joint Strike Fighter lost some altitude during the roll.

Image credit: Matthew Short via Lockheed Martin/Code One

 

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