Tag Archives: Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II

Watch an F-35A fire 181 rounds from its four-barrel 25mm Gatling gun embedded in the left wing

F-35 fired its embedded gun at full capacity.

The F-35 Integrated Test Force has just released an interesting video showing the 181 round gun burst of the 25 millimeter Gatling gun embedded in the F-35A’s left wing root.

The video was filmed during a ground test at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., Gun Harmonizing Range on Aug. 14; initial shots were fired on Jun. 9 and ground testing should be completed by the end of this month. Airborne testing is to start in the fall and at the end of the firing campaign the gun will be operative by 2017.

According to LM, the F-35 flight sciences aircraft, AF-2, underwent instrumentation modifications and used a production version of the GAU-22/A gun to achieve the full capacity of 181 rounds: along with practice PGU-23/U target practice rounds (which do not explode on impact) software to replicate being in flight was uploaded to the aircraft to conduct the test.

The F-35 GAU-22/A gun has been among the most controversial topics lately: some criticised the fact that the Joint Strike Fighter’s gun can only hold 181 20mm rounds, fewer than the A-10 Thunderbolt’s GAU-8/A Avenger, that can hold some 1,174 30mm rounds.

Interestingly, the gun is hidden behind closed doors, to reduce the plane’s RCS (radar cross section) and keep it stealth, until the trigger is engaged.

While the F-35A will be equipped with an embedded GAU-22 gun, the B (STOVL – Short Take Off Vertical Landing) and C (CV – Carrier Variant) variants will carry it inside an external pod capable to hold 220 rounds.

Image credit: F-35 Integrated Test Force

 

Watch Russia’s 5th Gen. stealth fighter perform stunning aerobatics, including “Cobra” and flat spin

The Russian Sukhoi T-50 is going to be a tough adversary for both the F-22 and F-35.

A video published by the TV channel Zvezda shows a Sukhoi PAK FA prototype performing some stunning aerobatics that prove the excellent maneuverability of Russia’s next generation radar-evading fighter jet.

According to the Russians, in terms of maneuvering capabilities, the new aircraft will have no rivals both among its Russian-made predecessors and among the foreign combat planes.

The aircraft is a stealth equipped with a front, side and rear AESA radar, as well as L Band radars. It features TVC (Thrust Vectoring Control), a top speed exceeding Mach 2 and a supermaneuverability that makes the T-50 able to perform, among the others, even the famous Cobra maneuver.

It should carry a wide variety of weapons including air-to-air, air-to-surface and anti-ship missiles.

Although future air-to-air scenarios will probably not involve WVR (Within Visual Range) engagements, where supermaneuverability would give it an edge over most if not all its competitors, and provided it will solve all its problems and will be produced in significant numbers, the T-50 will become a tough adversary for the F-22 and F-35.

 

Italian Air Force KC-767 becomes first international tanker to refuel an F-35

The Italian KC-767 is the first international aerial refueling tanker to be certified to refuel the F-35.

A KC-767A belonging to 8° Gruppo (Squadron) of 14° Stormo (Wing) from Pratica di Mare airbase, near Rome, became the first international tanker to successfully complete aerial refueling of a U.S. Air Force F-35A during a boom receiver certification refueling flight conducted over California’s High Desert region on Jul. 29.

The Aeronautica Militare (Italian Air Force) KC-767A is the first tanker not operated by the U.S. Air Force to undergo refueling certification trials with a U.S. aircraft.

During the flight (the first of a series being conducted to achieve the full certification, the latest conducted on Aug. 6 and shown on Flightradar24), the KC-767A completed 25 boom contacts with the F-35A and successfully offloaded 16,000 pounds of fuel.

Italy operates a fleet of four KC-767A next generation tankers equipped with both the sixth generation flying boom (based on the one of the American KC-10) and used to refuel the F-35A, and three hose and drogue stations that give the KC-767 the ability to refuel aircraft equipped with onboard receptacle or those with a refueling probe (as the F-35B).

The first KC-767 was delivered to the Italian Air Force on Jan. 27, 2011 and had its “baptism of fire” few months later, during the Air War in Libya, when the new tanker conducted air-to-air refueling missions of Italian planes involved in Operation Unified Protector.

Since then, the fleet has been certified for refueling with several allies: it supported British Eurofighters to LIMA 13 airshow, conducted collective aerial refueling certification and testing with Gripen and Rafale fighter jets and escorted the Spanish EF-18 and Eurofighter Typhoons to Konya, in Turkey, for Anatolian Eagle 2014-2.

Image credit: Lockheed Martin

 

Alenia Aermacchi M-346 back in U.S. Air Force T-X advanced trainer program

Compliance with the “sustained-G” requirement and a possible new U.S. partner make Alenia Aermacchi confident they can win the T-X race.

The Alenia Aermacchi M-346 “Master” is a dual-engine LIFT (Lead-In to Fighter Trainer) jet for the latest stage of a fighter pilot training which aims to develop the information management and aircraft handling skills of future pilots before they are assigned to the OCUs (Operational Conversion Units).

The aircraft, selected by Italy, Poland, Israel and Singapore for advanced pre-operative training, represents the air segment of an integrated training system (ITS) that includes ground-based facilities, academics, simulators, and mission planning and debriefing stations developed to fill the gap between the flight schools and the operational unit and to prepare the pilots to fly and operate Gen. 4th and 5th multirole aircraft in high-threat/high performance environments.

M346 T-X 2

Along with fast jet performance that this author experienced in first person the advanced trainer couples cutting-edge human-machine interface with modern systems and sensors, including a full digital cockpit, HOTAS (Hands On Throttle And Stick) commands, carefree handling, VCI (Vocal Control Inputs), a Helmet Mounted Display as well as the ability to simulate the flight characteristics of other aircraft and to replicate a wide array of sensors and weapons as if these were actually installed on the aircraft: in short, it with all the bells and whistles pilots can find in the Eurofighter Typhoon or the F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter.

The aircraft is considered one of the best candidates to replace the U.S. Air Force’s fleet of aging Northrop T-38 Talon trainers.

[Read also: We have flown one of the world’s most advanced jet trainers: the M-346 of the Italian Air Force]

Still, the fate of the T-100, the M-346 proposal for the T-X program has been unclear since General Dynamics announced it was withdrawing itself as the prime contractor for the bid in March. Furthermore, there were doubts the aircraft could be compliant to the sustained g performance requirement included in the initial RFI (Request For Information), issued by the Air Force.

M346 T-X

Nevertheless, it looks like both finding the partner and comply with the challenging requirement are no longer a problem: the company said Aviation Week that talks are in progress with a new partner that will be announced “very soon” whereas, dealing with the sustained g requirement, Alenia Aermacchi Chief Test Pilot Enrico Scarabotto said that the M-346 recently proved to be compliant with the latest amendment of the RFI, issued on Jul. 10.

The maneuver is described here (pag. 7):

The sustained G maneuver shall be flown with a standard configuration (i.e., clean with no external stores), at or above 80% fuel weight (relative to maximum fuel capacity), steady state flight, and standard day conditions. The maneuver will begin in level flight (flight path angle no lower than zero and no higher than two degrees nose high), wings level (+/‐ 5 degrees of bank), at or above 15,000 feet pressure altitude, and at or below 0.9M. From this point, the pilot shall immediately initiate bank and back pressure to achieve the sustained G. The sustained G must be maintained for a minimum of 140 continuous degrees. The pilot may begin reducing the load factor and rolling out after a minimum of 140 degrees in order to roll out at approximately 180 degrees of turn.

The flight path angle shall be no lower than 15 degrees nose low and the aircraft shall descend to no lower than 13,000 feet pressure altitude during any portion of the entire 180‐degree maneuver. There is no power setting specified for this maneuver. The aircraft may lose no more than 10% of the initial airspeed during the 180‐degree maneuver. There are no specified degrees of turn for roll in or roll out. “Approximately 180 degrees of turn” is meant to describe a recognizable maneuver without mandating exactly 180 degrees. There is no specified length of time for the 140‐degree portion of the maneuver or for the 180‐degree maneuver as a whole.

Minimum acceptable load factor will be 6.5 sustained for a minimum of 140 degrees. The lowest load factor registered during the 140‐degree period will establish sustained G for the maneuver. For example, if the aircraft maintains 7.2Gs for less than 140 degrees and then drops to 6.9Gs by the end of the 140‐degree period, 6.9Gs will be used as the maximum sustained G. There is no requirement to exceed 7.5Gs.

With a new U.S. partner at the horizon and compliance with the sustained g maneuver (that will be secured even more in the future as the company works to improve the aircraft agility through new software releases) candidates itself (again) as the leading contender for the T-X program, worth 350 jet trainers for the Air Education and Training Command.

F-35 pilot talking about the 400K USD flight helmet: “It’s cool but I don’t really use it that often”

“but I’m an old school pilot…”

Few months ago we published the interesting interview Maj. John Wilson, an F-35 pilot with 61th Fighter Squadron, gave to Christian Sundsdal of the Danish website focusing on military topics Krigeren, at Luke Air Force Base.

Answering one of the questions, Maj. Wilson clearly admitted that an A-10 Thunderbolt II will always be better in CAS than the F-35 because it was designed to perform that kind of mission.

Recently, Sundsdal has published the second part of the interview, that focused on the 400k USD Helmet Mounted Display System, that combines FLIR (Forward Looking Infra Red) and DAS (Distributed Aperture System) imaging, night vision and a virtual HUD (Head Up Display).

The HMDS provides the pilot a sort-of X-ray vision imagery: he can see through any surface, with the HUD symbology he needs to fly the plane and cue weapons that follow his head and get projected onto the visor through the line of sight imagery.

As already explained in a previous article, the HMDS has suffered issues though: jitter and latency (solved) along with problems with turbulence and buffeting, that can cause display issues (particularly dangerous when the JSF is maneuvering to evade an enemy missile shot), decreased night-vision acuity, and information sharing when 3 or 4 aircraft fly together.

Still, Wilson is probably not worried by such troubles since he doesn’t use the helmet very much:

“It’s cool, but I don’t use it that often” he says.

The reason is pretty simple: “If I really wanna see what’s underneath me, I’ll just look outside, I just roll up….because it doesn’t take much longer for me to just bank the airplane.”

Interesting point of view.

According to the F-35 pilot, he would just “look” as he would see in much higher clarity with his own eyes. Pilots consider it an “added benefit” and use it sometimes for night flying but that seems to be the only time when the costly HMDS is used (at least by Wilson and his 61th FS colleagues).

Still, Wilson admits he’s an old school pilot, so there may be pilots who use it more often.

“What about if you need to look behind you?” asks one of the interviewers.

Wilson is quite sure: “I’ll use my eyes” because “I need to see things with my own eyes” to judge aspect, distance closure, and other details that you can’t get using a 2D camera.

The F-16, with no camera, has a really good visibility: “It’s just a kind of apple to orange comparison,” Wilson explains, highlighting the fact that the F-35 and the F-16 or F-22 were designed for different roles.

“If you are flying correctly and the jet is doing what it is supposed to do, [enemy] guys should die well before they get behind you” Wilson comments, suggesting, once again, that the JSF’s survivability in air-to-air combat (even against some of the aircraft it is supposed to replace) is based on its BVR (Beyond Visual Range), stealth and SA (Situational Awareness) capabilities, rather than in its agility (initially touted by LM test pilots…).

Ok now it’s time to watch the interview by yourself:

Pilot talks about the helmet and visuality within the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter Lightning II from Krigeren.dk on Vimeo.

Top image credit: U.S. Air Force