Tag Archives: Lockheed Martin

[Photo] Air-to-Air images of Australia’s first F-35A Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter

Australia’s first Lockheed Martin F-35A Lighning II made its maiden flight. And here are a couple of interesting photographs.

On Sept. 29, F-35A Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter, AU-1, made its first flight from Lockheed Martin’s Forth Worth facility, in Texas.

Piloted by Lockheed Martin F-35 Chief Test Pilot Alan Norman, the aircraft performed a series of functional checks during the sortie that lasted two hours.

The aircraft, one of the 72 multi-role planes destined to the RAAF will be delivered to the “customer” later this year and will be assigned to Luke Air Force Base, Arizona where Australia and other partner countries will train their F-35 pilots.

The RAAF is expected to base the Joint Strike Fighter at two airfields: 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.

The futuristic (and quite expensive) F-35, along with RAAF 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, will make Australia a regional air power.

RAAF F-35 first flight turn

Image credit: Lockheed Martin

 

US, Poland accelerate F-16’s Joint Air-to-Surface Stand-off Missiles deal amid Russia tensions

In August last year we analyzed the reasons for the possible Polish purchase of the Lockheed Martin AGM-158 Joint Air-to-Surface Stand-off Missiles (JASSM). Now, in the light of the Ukrainian crisis, a contextual change has occurred and the deal seems to be closed-up soon.Nevertheless, there are still some unaswered questions.

The latest development about the Polish air-launched cruise missiles deal started with the Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DCSA) and the US State Department giving consent for the Polish procurement of the JASSMs in their AGM-158A variant, along with a modernization bundle for the Polish Air Force’s F-16C/D Block 52+ jet fighters. The Congress received the information on the potential transaction on Sep. 17 .

The contract assumes that Poland will obtain 40 AGM-158A JASSM missiles manufactured by Lockheed Martin with 2 additional combat-ready AGM-158A that will be used for testing, along with the testing instrumentation and self-destruction system, 2 training missiles with the same instrumentation, and 2 missiles for certification purposes.

Additionally, the mission computers of the Polish F-16s will be modernized, up to the Tape M6.5 standard, in order to integrate both the AGM-158 JASSM cruise missiles and some other new weaponry, including the AIM-120D AMRAAM, AIM-9X Sidewinder Block II air-to-air missiles and the SDBs (Small Diameter Bombs).

As we can see, JASSM is just the tip of the iceberg.

M6.5 software was designed in order to meet the needs of the European users of the F-16 jets, dubbed EPAF (European Participating Air Forces). There are some rumours that the Polish Viper jet fighters will also get new Electronic Warfare suites.

Defence24.com claims that additionally GPS navigation system of the Polish Vipers will be jam-proofed, and the Link 16 communications suite improved. The deal will also include logistics bundle, along with transportation and storage cases for the missiles, spare parts, equipment and technical documentation. The media outlet also gained access to some unconfirmed information, according to which the modernization of the Polish Vipers is planned to start in 2015.

The value of the potential contract is yet to be unveiled, but rumors are that it is going to be approximately 500 million USD.

There are some doubts that still need to be addressed though.

The Polish MoD states that potential signing of the contract for the procurement of the JASSM will happen in October or November, while the deliveries are a matter of 2 years. According to the statements made by Tomasz Siemoniak, the Polish Minister of Defense, the US is willing to conduct the deal swiftly. The negotiations regarding the JASSM deal took place last April, when Chuck Hagel visited Poland.

Another issue is of a different nature.

There are two versions of the missile, one with a range of 370 km, and another, with a range of almost 1,000 km, which is called JASSM-ER.

In the last days, some rumours surfaced that Poland is going to get the ER version as well – it was all published by General Bogusław Pacek, who is one of the advisors in the Polish MoD, via his twitter account, but the news was denied shortly later. Other media outlets, such as Dziennik Zbrojny seem to suggest that Poland will get the missile with a shorter range. The justification is simple – integrating the ER version with the Polish F-16 may be expensive since in the U.S. these missiles are used solely by the B-1B bombers.

Moreover, the deal will probably not be executed too quickly, since Lockheed Martin has a capability of manufacturing no more than 20 AGM-158As per month whilst JASSM-ER missiles are produced simultaneously, and the US plans to acquire 360 pieces per year, starting from FY 2017.

The Polish order thus seems to be beneficial for Lockheed: once the U.S. forces resign from acquiring the basic version, the production may continue to equip the Polish Air Force. JASSM-ER is to enter the full-scale production from 2015. Dziennik Zbrojny claims that due to the higher production cost (caused by the lack of other foreign sales) the Poles may pay as much for the A version, as the Americans would pay for the ER variant. Polish procurement of the ER has been unfortunately postponed, and it would surely be a solution to the issue. Another way to walk around the problem would be choice of an alternative weapon, such as the Turkish Roketsan SOM.

JASSM will significantly enhance the deterrence capabilities of Poland. JASSM-ER would be even a better choice in that respect. Poland currently executes Polish Tusks modernization program, which will enhance the capabilities of the Polish Armed Forces.

The program also includes NSM missiles and Homar long range unguided missile launchers.

Taking into account the fact that the Russian threat has become more realistic, procuring the new weapon system may be a logic step towards increasing the Polish security.

Jacek Siminski for TheAviationist

Image Credit: Wikimedia

 

 

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-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

 

Photo from the cockpit: B-52 bomber drops a live stealthy Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile

A live Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile was dropped by a B-52H during Combat Hammer exercise.

The image in this post was taken on May 5, from the cockpit of a B-52H flying a sortie of an Air Combat Command exercise dubbed “Combat Hammer” which involved the use of live cruise missiles and PGMs (Precision Guided Munitions).

Among the weapons used during the exercise there was the JASSM stealthy Air-Launched Cruise Missile, one of the Air Force’s most effective weapons.

The radar-evading AGM-158 JASSM is able to destroy targets at distances of 370 km, well outside the reach of enemy Surface to Air Missile batteries. The new missile uses its inertial navigation and GPS (global positioning systems) to find its target, and an infrared seeker for pinpoint accuracy right before impact. The weapon is jamming resistant and able to operate in “contested and degraded environments”.

The JASSM is one of the newest weapons to be integrated onto the B-52.

Several Air Force Global Strike Command B-52H Stratofortresses and B-2 Spirit stealth bombers (along with other three aircraft types, including Remotely Piloted Vehicles out of Creech AFB) took part in the evaluation, which allowed ACC to validate the accuracy and capability of its conventional weapons during multiple sorties flown over the Utah Test and Training Range.

Precision guided munitions dropped during Combat Hammer included Paveway II LGBs (Laser Guided Bombs) and multiple variants of the Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM), two types of weapons that have been extensively used in conflicts across the world.

Image credit: U.S. Air Force