F-35B STOVL (Short Take Off Vertical Landing) variant of the Joint Strike Fighter performs first launch from ski-jump in the hands of a British pilot.
On Jun. 19, BAE Systems Test Pilot Pete ‘Wizzer’ Wilson launched the Lockheed Martin F-35B from a land-based ski-jump for the very first time, at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Maryland.
The trials aim at validating the troubled fifth generation multi-role aircraft’s ability to take off safely and effectively from a ski-jump ramp similar to that which will be used on the UK’s new Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier.
The Italian Air Force is developing a new indigenous jet trainer.
The Italian Air Force has identified the new trainer that will replace the SF-260EA in the role of initial flight screener of its student pilots.
The mock-up of the new indigenous project, dubbed T-344 V.E.S.P.A. (Very Efficient Smart Power Aircraft) was unveiled during a press open day organised at Cameri airbase as a side event of the EURAC (European Air Chiefs’ Conference) on May 7.
The T-344 is based on the Caproni C-22J, a light jet-powered aircraft developed in the 1980s: it features a side-by-side digital cockpit, two 170-kg thrust engines, retractable tricycle undercarriage, maximum speed of Mach 0.48 and service ceiling of 25,000 feet.
The cockpit is not pressurized, meaning that the pilots will have to use the flight helmet and oxygen mask.
The V.E.S.P.A. is being developed through Reparto Sperimentale Volo (Italian Air Force Test Wing based at Praitca di Mare) by the ItAF itself, that will assign production to an aerospace company at a later stage.
Interestingly, other innovative projects were showcased at Cameri.
Among them, the AgustaWestland HH-101A Caesar, the new CSAR (Combat Search And Rescue) helicopter that the ItAF will use for Special Forces support, Personnel Recovery in hostile environments, MEDEVAC (Medical Evacuation) and SMI (Slow Mover Intercept) missions; the Alenia Aermacchi MC-27J Praetorian, a gunship version of the successful C-27J Spartan equipped with pallettized machine guns, targeting sensors and C3I-ISR (Command, control, communications and intelligence – intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance) systems; the AgustaWestland AW-149, that could find its way to the ItAF SAR fleet in the future; and the P.1HH HammerHead UAS (Unmanned Aerial System), that the ItAF has already procured (three UAS systems, consisting of six aircraft and three ground stations and complete with ISR configuration, that will be delivered early next year).
Even a scale model of the MALE 2020 medium-altitude, long-endurance UAV project developed by Italy, France and Germany.
…and (quite obviously) the F-22 will always be better in Air-to-Air combat. But, in all the other missions the F-35 wins.
It’s wrong to compare the F-35 with any other asset that was designed to perform a specific mission: this is, in simple words, what a U.S. F-35 pilot said in an interview he gave to the Danish website focusing on military topics Krigeren.
For sure, aircraft designed for a specific role are going to be more effective in that one than other multi-role platforms. The problem in this case is that the F-35 is going to replace these assets, even though many believe this is not cost-effective, and could even cost some human lives as far as CAS missions, with Troops in Contact is concerned.
Furthermore, according to Wilson, once all the limitations are removed and it can carry weapons, the F-35 will be as capable as the F-16 in the CAS role.
According to Wilson, the majority of CAS missions that have been flown in Iraq, Afghanistan or elsewhere, were flown by Predators, F-15E Strike Eagles, F-16s and F-18s.
“The A-10s make up a very small percentage [and the fact that] every JTAC or guy on the ground that has been saved, has been saved by an A-10, that’s just not true” Wilson says.
“If the guys on the ground are concerned about that…I’d say they shouldn’t be. They should only be concerned that the pilots of whatever aircraft it is, is properly trained and doing his job, dropping the right bomb, on the right target, at the right time.”
Wilson admits the aircraft is expensive, but he says that maintaining several different types in service is even more costly.
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.