Tag Archives: Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II

Up close and personal with the F-35’s 400K USD flight helmet with a X-ray vision-like imagery

Here are some interesting images of the F-35’s Helmet Mounted Display System.

The Helmet Mounted Display System is one of the most advanced system on the much debated F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter.

It integrates FLIR (Forward Looking Infra Red) and DAS (Distributed Aperture System) imaging, night vision and a virtual HUD (Head Up Display) that makes the F-35 the first front line combat plane without a “conventional” HUD:  the main flight and weapon aiming information are projected onto a virtual HUD on the visor.

F-35 helmet LM 2

As explained when we saw one for the first time at Farnborough International Airshow in 2012, the helmet system collects all the information coming from the plane’s sensors along and fuses it with imagery fed by a set of six cameras mounted on the jet’s outer surfaces.

In this way, the HMDS provides the pilot with a X-ray vision-like imagery: he can see in all directions, and through any surface, with the HUD symbology he needs to fly the plane and cue weapons, through the line of sight imagery.

F-35 helmet LM 3

No matter where the pilot turns his head, the most relevant data he needs follows his eyes.

Needless to say, as many other F-35’s systems, the HMDS has suffered issues: whilst jitter and latency problems have been solved, there is still concern 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.

F-35 helmet LM 4

Image credit: Lockheed Martin

 

Watch a U.S. Marine Corps KC-130J refuel two F-35B Joint Strike Fighters

If you suffer air sickness, this footage is not for you.

Here’s a B-roll showing two U.S. Marine Corps KC-130s flying with two F-35B Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters over Beaufort, South Carolina, during an aerial refueling mission on Mar. 19, 2015.

The KC-130 is an extended range tanker transport aircraft modified for aerial refueling of aircraft equipped with an IFR (In Flight Refueling) probe: in other words, F-35B and C, the variants for the U.S. Marine Corps and U.S. Navy.

 

Italian Typhoon jets have started Operational Testing and Evaluation in the air-to-ground role

The Italian Eurofighter Typhoons are involved in the OT&E in the air-to-ground mission.

In the last weeks, the Italian Air Force Typhoons currently deployed to Decimomannu airbase in Sardinia have flown with Litening targeting pods and inert GBU LGBs (Laser Guided Bombs), the first sign of their involvement in the OT&E (Operational Testing and Evaluation).

Indeed, the Italian F-2000s (as the aircraft are designated within the Italian Air Force) are conducting tests aimed at assessing their potentiality in the air-to-ground role: not only is a multi-role Typhoon capable to carry Paveways and JDAMs (Joint Direct Attack Munitions), already used by the ageing Tornado and AMX (that will be replaced by the F-35 in the future), useful for the Aeronautica Militare as it is for the Royal Air Force, but it could also be more appealing for potential foreign buyers.

Although the air superiority role remains priority, considered their ability to use the ordnance in inventory for other aircraft (including the Storm Shadow air launched staff off missile), the Eurofighter will possibly be used in the swing role or as “back up” attack platforms within the Italian Air Force for several years to come.

Typhoon with GBUs

Image credit: Giampaolo Mallei

 

Benelux starts joint Air Policing operations

This could be a European Precedent

A couple of weeks ago, Belgium, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands signed an agreement which is to regulate joint air defense operations carried out in their airspaces.

Signed by the Ministers of Defense of the Netherlands and Belgium, and Luxembourg’s Dutch Ambassador, the agreement, that ratifies that the signing countries will rotate the air policing duties, is a follow-up to a letter of intent signed by the countries back in Oct. 2013 that will have to be ratified by the respective governments, a process that could take about a year according to IHS Jane’s.

The memorandum may be treated as a precedent by other European Union member states, whose air forces, as a consequence of the ever shrinking defense budgets, lack some (basic) capabilities, including the ability to protect the sovereignty of their airspace round the clock.

However this is nothing new in Europe, where air arms are trying to embrace the “pooling and sharing” concept to save some money and NATO has carried out regional Air Policing missions, including the one in the Baltic (BAP), for quite some time now.

Anyway, the Benelux countries are willing to begin the joint air space security operation, starting from 2017.

According to the IHS Jane’s report on the issue, the fighter force of Belgium and the Netherlands will defend the countries, providing proper QRA (quick reaction alert) capabilities. Obviously, not only will the defensive operations cover the issue of military threats, but they will also be dealing with renegade aircraft. This means that a new scheme of air policing is to be implemented next year must take every situation into account.

Its legal implications are quite interesting. According to Jane’s, Belgians would be able to ask the Dutch fighters to shoot down renegades in the Belgian airspace and likewise, the Belgian F-16 could be authorized to neutralize such threat in the Dutch airspace.

This is a precedent in the European law, hence additional time is needed to discuss the legal character of the new operation. For example, according to euobserver.com, Luxembourg’s authorities have already excluded any use of lethal force over their territory.

When it comes to Luxembourg, the situation here is quite similar to that of Lithuania. The country has no relevant fighter force, hence help from the neighbors is required to provide air policing.

The situation is also interesting equipment-wise, since the Royal Netherlands Air Force is looking forward to replace its F-16s with the F-35, which will be probably delayed due to the problems related to the Lightning II program. The Belgians are going to replace their F-16s as well. Here the Rafale is a viable candidate, however the joint air policing operations may lead to different choices (including the F-35).

What is more, we can’t help but notice that the joint air-policing initiative is probably aimed at bolstering the Benelux capabilities to deter potential Russian intruders, who so far not only have been active in the Baltic area, but also within the airspace of UK and have often skirted the Dutch airspace.

 

First ever F-35 assembled internationally destined to Italy rolled out of Cameri facility

First Italian F-35A rolled out of Cameri facility.

On Mar. 12, the first F-35A Lightning II destined to the Italian Air Force rolled out of the Final Assembly and Check Out (FACO) facility at Cameri, in northwestern Italy.

The aircraft, designated AL-1, is the first F-35A assembled internationally, the first of eight aircraft currently being assembled at Cameri, that will perform its first flight later this year.

The Italian FACO, a 101-acre facility including 22 buildings and more than one million square feet of covered work space, housing 11 assembly stations, and five maintenance, repair, overhaul, and upgrade bays, is owned by the Italian Ministry of Defense and is operated by Alenia Aermacchi in conjunction with Lockheed Martin Aeronautics. According to Lockheed, the current workforce consist of more than 750 skilled personnel engaged in F-35 aircraft and wing production.

The FACO will assemble the first 8 Italian F-35As and the remaining F-35A and F-35B (for a total of 90 aircraft planned that should be procured by the Italian Air Force and Navy), will build F-35A for the Royal Netherlands Air Force and it was selected in December 2014 as the European F-35 airframe Maintenance, Repair, Overhaul and Upgrade center for the entire European region.

In spite of internal criticism and threatened cuts, F-35s will replace the Italian Air Force ageing Tornado and AMX attack planes and the Italian Navy AV-8B aircraft.

Italy_FACO_photo_1

Image credit: Lockheed Martin