Category Archives: F-35

Here’s the first (and second) Australian F-35 Lightning II aircraft

A sneak preview of the first and second F-35 being delivered to the Royal Australian Air Force

The first of 72 F-35s for the Royal Australian Air Force rolled out at Lockheed Martin’s Ft. Worth facility on Jul. 24.

The RAAF is expected to base the Joint Strike Fighter at two bases: Williamtown, in New South Wales, and Tindal, in the Northern Territory, where 1.5 billion USD facilities and infrastructures to support the new fifth generation radar-evading plane will be built.

Ahead of the ceremony, Lockheed Martin unveiled to media the second F-35 (top image), AU-2, which already wears the standard overall grey color scheme along with the RAAF roundels and tail marking of the No 2 Operational Conversion Unit from RAAF Williamtown.

First F-35 RAAF

Above: the first F-35 AU-1

Image credit: Lockheed Martin

 

F-35s return to flight. But they can’t attend Farnborough airshow in the UK

Grounding has been lifted with some restrictions. That’s why the F-35Bs will not be able to cross the Ocean to attend the Farnborough International Airshow.

On Jul. 15, the Pentagon announced the fleet wide grounding has been lifted after investigation on the issue that caused the engine fire on an F-35A CTOL (Conventional Take Off and Landing) on Jun. 23 did not highlight a systemic problem.

The root cause of the fire has been identified in excessive rubbing between the turbine blades and the cowling, a problem not endemic to the fleet, based on the inspections of the other F-35 engines;  still something that must be closely monitored.

That’s why the return to flight is restricted: the F-35s can’t fly faster than Mach 0.9 and are limited to 18 degrees of angle of attack. The envelope is limited from -1 G to +3 Gs and, above all, after three hours of flight time, each front fan section of each engine has to be inspected with a borescope.

Therefore, the aircraft can’t undertake a long range ferry flight across the Pond and for this reason the four F-35B STOVL (Short Take Off and Landing) currently stuck on the ground at NAS Patuxent River (three of those expected to fly to Europe along with a RAF F-35B out of Eglin Air Force Base) will not be able to attend FIA 2014 in the UK.

The official cancellation of the FIA participation brought speculations and rumors, confirmations and denials, to an end.

F-35 to depart

Image credit: U.S. Navy / NAS Patuxent River

 

Here’s a photo of the four F-35B jets set to take part to UK airshows stuck on the ground at Pax River

They will not make it to RIAT at Fairford, but they could still attend Farnborough International Airshow 2014.

The above image was posted by Naval Air Station Patuxent River Facebook page on Jul. 10.

It shows the four F-35B aircraft from VMFA-121 Green Knights at MCAS Yuma, that arrived at Pax River on Friday, Jun 27, on their way to the UK where they were expected to take part in Royal International Air Tattoo (RIAT) and Farnborough International Airshow (FIA).

On Jul. 3, a fleet-wide grounding forced them to remain parked on the VX-23 apron.

It has just been announced, that the aircraft will not make it to the RIAT airshow. Still, there are some chances they can  support the FIA airshow.

Image credit: U.S. Navy

H/T to Tosh for the image and Tom S. J. Jones for the link to the RIAT statement.

 

In spite of flight ban F-35 could still attend UK airshows

Even if nothing has been decided yet, it looks like the F-35 could still be able to attend Farnborough International Airshow in the UK.

As the fleet remains grounded by a flight ban announced on Jul. 3 following the Jun. 23 engine fire experienced by an F-35A CTOL (Conventional Take Off and Landing) at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, it may be possible that some F-35B STOVL (Short Take Off Vertical Landing) aircraft can be allowed to attend the two most important season’s airshows in the UK.

As many as four F-35s (three from the U.S. Marine Corps and a British one) were scheduled to take part in Royal International Air Show (RIAT) and Farnborough Airshow (FIA) near London. But, whereas it seems at least unlikely the aircraft can make it to RAF Fairford for RIAT, there could be some chances the aircraft could eventually attend FIA 2014, a major showcase which attracts aerospace companies and potential customers from all around the world.

F-35B turn

Indeed, while investigation into the cause of the engine fire continues and the rest of the U.S. Air Force, Navy and Royal Air Force F-35s remain grounded, according to DefenseNews, the Marines may decide to allow their F-35B jets to cross the Pond, making happy aviation enthusiasts and…Lockheed Martin, facing the umpteenth issue with the troubled fifth generation aircraft.

“As part of that, there is the possibility NAVAIR would allow for return to flight before the Air Force or the UK did depending how they analyze and accept that data and manage risk,” Kyra Hawn, a spokeswoman for the F-35 joint program office, told to DefenseNews’s Aaron Mehta.

Therefore, even if U.S. Air Force and UK will not lift the flight ban in time for the airshows, the U.S. Marine Corps may decide it is ok for them to fly the jump jet aircraft overseas.

As said, nothing has been decided yet. Considering that RIAT opens this weekend, the participation to FIA appears at least a bit more likely. But, who’s going to accept the risk to allow the aircraft to fly in spite of a fleet-wide grounding and investigation underway?

Can you imagine the impact of an incident on the reputation of the much debated aircraft?

Image credit: Tony Lovelock

 

F-35 fleet grounded indefinitely. Once again.

The F-35 fleet was gronded once again based on initial findings from runway fire incident occurred last week.

The Pentagon has officially announced that all its fleet of Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II jets has been grounded following the runway fire incident which involved an F-35A at Eglin Air Force Base, on Jun. 23.

The news came just ahead of the long weekend for U.S. Independence Day, as Joint Strike Fighters were expected to cross the Pond to take part to Farnborough International Air Show and Royal International Air Tattoo, in the UK next week.

The participation of the F-35s has not been cancelled yet (indeed, the F-35B STOVL – Short Take Off Vertical Landing variant of the plane, expected to take part to the two leading European airshows, had resumed flights on Jun. 28) but the fleet-wide grounding puts the aircraft’s international debut at risk.

Here’s the official statement from Pentagon Press Secretary Rear Admiral John Kirby on F-35 Fleet Grounding:

The technical air worthiness authorities of the Department of the Air Force and Department of the Navy have issued a directive to ground the F-35 fleet based on initial findings from the runway fire incident that occurred at Eglin Air Force Base on Monday, June 23. The root cause of the incident remains under investigation. Additional inspections of F-35 engines have been ordered, and return to flight will be determined based on inspection results and analysis of engineering data. Defense Department leadership supports this prudent approach. Preparations continue for F-35 participation in international air shows in the United Kingdom, however a final decision will come early next week.

This is not the first time the entire F-35 fleet is grounded.

On Feb. 22, 2013 the Pentagon decided to suspend the flights of all Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II fighter planes after a crack was found on a turbine blade of a test aircraft at Edwards Air Force Base, California.

The decision came only nine days after the DoD had cleared the STOVL variant to resume flying activity after a month-long grounding due to a fueldraulic engine problem.

Image credit: Lockheed Martin