A question posed in Britain’s Houses of Parliament on Mar. 20 by Scottish Politician Angus Robertson highlighted the amount of time the F-35 development program has been lost due to grounding orders for the jet.
The exact question which was posed to the Secretary of State for defense was as follows: “To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many days of flight testing have occurred and how many days of flight testing have been lost due to grounding of the aircraft since delivery of the first Joint Strike Fighter.”
The answer he got was very concise and quite surprising.
Philip Dunne said: “From the start of Flight Test on Jun. 11, 2008 to Feb. 27, 2013, there have been a total of 6,382 Development Flight Test days of F-35B Short Take-Off and Vertical Landing (STOVL) aircraft. Over this period, the equivalent of 285 days of Development Flight Test on F-35B aircraft did not take place while aircraft were grounded, or 4.5% of the maximum available flight days.”
The questions posed are done so in advance to give the British government chance to answer accurately; also known as Prime Minister’s question time this takes place on a weekly basis usually on a Wednesday in the Houses of Parliament in London.
After selecting the F-35C CV (Carrier Variant) British Prime Minister David Cameron’s Goverment reverted to the initial decision to order the STOVL (Short Take Off Vertical Landing) version of the Joint Strike Fighter to equip UK’s future supercarriers.
Image credit: Lockheed Martin
Regardless of all the sensors, here is why F-35 pilots need to visually check their 6 o’clock March 11, 2013Posted by David Cenciotti in : F-35 , 10comments
In a recent post, we have explained that a recently leaked Pentagon report highlighted the poor “out-of-cockpit visibility in the F-35A”, a shortcoming that would limit the pilots ability to see aerial threats surrounding the plane putting the costly 5th generation plane at risk.
The problem would lie in the large head rest that impede rear visibility and the ability of the pilot to check the aircraft’s 6 o’clock for incoming aerial or surface threats.
Image credit: U.S. Air Force
Many readers have argued that the limited rear visibility is no big deal for a modern aircraft equipped with sensors capable of detecting threats coming from any direction.
Although it is quite true that the F-35′s sensors equipping the aircraft (at least when it will get most advanced software configurations) would probably be able to spot any aircraft attempting to get on the aircraft’s tail, no matter where the pilot is looking, we can’t completely rule out the possibility that the pilot will have to turn is head rearwards to visually ID a plane approaching fast from 6 o’clock.
A Joint Strike Fighter pilot could be forced to look towards the tail to check the smoke of an incoming SAM (Surface to Air Missile) and perform the proper evasive maneuver, or to look for an incoming hostile stealth fighter (for instance a Russian or Chinese one) detected by the onboard Distributed Aperture System (DAS) close to “the merge”.
In a Within Visual Range scenario (no matter how likely it is for a stealth plane), the ability to check their six can make the difference between death or survival. That’s why visibility is important regardless the capabilities of the defensive suite.
Still, it must be said that, as soon as (if?) all the problems with the devices are solved, wearing their Helmet Mounted Display System Gen. II, that fuses all the information coming from the plane’s sensors along with imagery fed by a set of cameras mounted on the jet’s outer surfaces, providing a X-ray vision-like imagery, F-35 pilots will be able to check their six, head rest or not.
“F-35 super stealth plane will get pilots shot down in aerial combat” new leaked report says March 7, 2013Posted by David Cenciotti in : F-35 , 12comments
According to an article published by the Washington Times, the F-35A, the Conventional Take Off and Landing version of the Joint Strike Fighter, would be defeated in aerial combat because of his current shortcomings.
Mentioning a leaked Pentagon report made available by POGO, the article explains that “out-of-cockpit visibility in the F-35A is less than other Air Force fighter aircraft” thus limiting a pilot’s ability to see aerial threats surrounding him.
The problem is in the large head rest that impede rear visibility and the ability of the pilot to check the aircraft’s 6 o’clock for incoming aerial or surface threats.
Another shortcoming is the aircraft adveniristic helmet mounted display system (HMDS Gen. II), that has not yet solved focal problems, blurry and double vision in the display and misalignment of the virtual horizon display with the actual horizon.
The HMDS Gen. II integrates FLIR (Forward Looking Infra Red) and DAS (Distributed Aperture System) imaging, and night vision (without somehow uncomfortable NVGs – Night Vision Goggles) into a single helmet in which essential flight and weapon aiming information are project onto a virtual HUD (Head Up Display) on the visor.
Image credit: Lockheed Martin
Few weeks ago in a Flight Global piece by Dave Majumdar, Bill Flynn, Lockheed test pilot responsible for flight envelope expansion activities for the F-35 had claimed that all three variants of the Joint Strike Fighter will have better kinematic performance than any fourth-generation fighter plane with combat payload, including the Eurofighter Typhoon and the Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet.
Such claims were strongly disputed by a Eurofighter Typhoon industry test pilot, who tried to debunk all Flynn’s “theories” about the alleged superior F-35 performance.
Considered the above mentioned F-35′s flaws (and all the shortcomings highlighted by the report…), the kinematic performance of the (recently, once again, grounded) stealth fighter, is the least problem.
Aviation journalist David Axe has published an insightful piece about Lockheed Martin’s marketing efforts to keep up “the much-delayed, over-budget” F-35 Joint Strike Fighter reputation.
Related articlesF-35 , 2comments
Even if the future of the F-35 in the Royal Canadian Air Force is at least uncertain, after the program was “reset” (with several other replacement combat planes being considered, including the Super Hornet, the Rafale and the Typhoon) because of the problems, schedule slippages and cost overruns, Al Clark has drawn a digital mock-up (first published in the March issue of Air Force Monthly magazine) of how the Joint Strike Fighter would look like in Canadian service.
Interestingly, Al imagined the F-35 not only in the standard overall grey color scheme, but also in the same livery of the 2012′s RCAF CF-18 demo team.
Image credit: Al Clark
The theme chosen by the RCAF CF-18 demo team in 2012 was: “The True North, Strong and Free”
Designed by Jim Belliveau, veteran graphic design director of 410 Squadron at 4 Wing Cold Lake, Alberta, the theme displays tail and dorsal art capturing the Arctic landscape and its people. It also features 13 distinctive snowflakes, representing Canada’s provinces and territories, as well as the 13 RCAF Wings, scattered across a dramatic Arctic blue background.
Related articlesF-35 , add a comment
The following awesome pictures show the F-35B STOVL (Short Take Off Vertical Landing) aircraft BF-4 hovering in the darkness during a night test flight at NAS Patuxent River, Maryland, on Dec. 13, 2012.
NVGs concentrate and intensify light by optical means the typical monochrome green tint of the night vision goggles is by design: it is the one that is better perceived and distingued by the human eye.
Image credit: Lockheed Martin