Monthly Archives: November 2009

F-35 JSF: not an open source platform

I’ve recently read with much interest a Reuters news dealing with the software code that the controls the F-35. According to the article, a senior Pentagon program official has affirmed that no foreign partner will be granted access to the source code of the Joint Strike Fighter. Even if it is not clear which computer hosts such an important code, the 8 million lines software code (!) will not be made available to any of the 8 partners that have co-financed the F-35 development (Italy comprised) told Reuters Jon Schreiber, who heads the program’s international affairs. Instead, the US will set up a reprogramming facility, most probably at Eglin AFB in Florida, where F-35 software will be developed in order to provide the required upgrades.
New aircraft largely depend on software. The Italian Eurofighters are among them. The Italian Typhoon fleet is made by single seaters F-2000As and two seaters F-2000Bs in many different configurations: Block 1, 1B, 2, 2B, 5, 8 and 8B. Aircraft of different Blocks are much similar one another externally, as the main differences deal with the software releases. Functionalities evolve in terms of production software packages (PSPs): the manner in which the aircraft fight, employ the weapons, communicate and exchange data with other assets, largely depend on the PSP software version. However, “new” is not “better”: some of the aircraft hosting the old version of the software are more efficient and capable of the new aircraft coming with the “beta releases”, as the old software has been completely developed while the new one is in the early development stages. That’s why Italian Tranche 1 Typhoons are currently more mission capable of the recently delivered Tranche 2 examples.

F-35B and F-35C

A few days ago I wrote a post about the F-35 Lightning II is a fifth-generation, single-seat, single-engine, stealth multirole fighter, that will also equip the Aeronautica Militare (Italian Air Force, ItAF) and the Marina Militare, that will use the F-35B from the new Cavour STOVL aircraft carrier. In spite of a carrier variant designated F-35C, the RAF and Royal Navy will use the B variant from aircraft carriers and the U.S. Marines Corps are investigating the use of the Ship-borne Rolling and Vertical Landing (SRVL) method to operate F-35Bs from the aircraft carrier without disrupting carrier operations as the landing method uses the same pattern of approach as wire arrested landings. The F-35C carrier (whose only user will be the US Navy to replace the “legacy Hornets” and complement the Super Hornets) variant will be much similar to the A and B versions, but will have larger, folding wings and larger control surfaces for improved low-speed control. The aircraft will also be equipped with a stronger landing gear and hook for the stresses of carrier trap landings.

The following front, side and top views of the three variants will give an idea of the main differences among the F-35A, B and C.

An ItAF C-130J crashes in Pisa

On Nov. 23, 2009, around 14.10 LT, a C-130J belonging to the 46^ Brigata Aerea, crashed in Pisa, next to the active runway (more or less here) causing the death of the 5 POB (People On Board). According to the eye witnesses that saw the aircraft crashing into the ground, the aircraft had just taken off from RWY 22L (even if some sources reported that the aircraft had just performed a  Touch & Go)  and was performing a left turn (for a right downwind?) when it lost altitude, hit the cables next to the nearby railway line and hit the ground. The reasons of the incident are obviously unknown. The two “black boxes” were immediately recovered and will be analysed to determine the root cause of the crash. The aircraft was performing a training sortie that foresaw a certain number of touch and go) and nothing can be excluded so far: for sure, with such a large aircraft, a human mistake (a stall) or a catastrophic failure (loss of hydraulic pressure, structural failure) during a low level close pattern could have a disastrous effect. I tend to exclude an engine failure since the C-130J is a 4 engine aircraft; a dual engine loss is extremely unlikely.
The aircraft involved was MM62176 “46-41” depicted in the picture below (that I took on May 23, 2008, at Pratica di Mare airport); it was a KC-130J, a tanker capable of performing air-to-air refueling of various types of receivers.

First "naval" JSF lands at NAS Patuxent River

During my visit to the USS Nimitz in the Indian Ocean last month, I had the opportunity to see the Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornets in action. The Super Hornet is a 4.5+ generation naval multirole aircraft that was delivered to the US Navy in 1999 to replace the F-14, the S-3 and, in the long term, the F/A-18C and D Hornet.
Even if the “Rhino” (as the aircraft has been dubbed to distinguish it from the “legacy Hornet”) is the most advanced aircraft in the USN inventory, its replacement is already flying and undertaking flight testing: on Nov. 15, the first Lockheed F-35B Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) landed at Naval Air Station (NAS) Patuxent River, Md. The test aircraft, known as BF-1, after departing from Lockheed facility in Fort Worth, landed at Pax River after a stop in Dobbins Air Force Base, Ga.
BF-1 is the first of five test F-35B STOVL (Short Take-Off Vertical Landing) variants to be assigned to the air station. BF-2 is expected to arrive by the end of this year and BF-3 will follow shortly behind that, Lockheed spokesman John Kent said. The air station also will be home to three Navy carrier test variants. Before the aircraft can complete its first vertical landing, it must go through a transition phase. When regular airplanes fly, lift is created from the wing. But for hovering jets such as the F-35B, it is created from the jet itself. The transition phase is expected to include a series of flights, during which the aircraft will practice slowing down and transitioning lift from the wing to the jet — a critical step before an actual STOVL flight. Additional testing will include flying with different weight loads and ordnance payloads, according to a Marine release. “I’m anxious to have our engineers, our test pilots and our operators get their hands on this jet, and then see what we can do to turn test points and sorties at a rapid rate during the coming months,” said Lt. Gen. George J. Trautman, the deputy commandant for aviation, in a release. Eventually the Joint Strike Fighter will replace the F/A-18 Hornet, AV-8B Harrier, and the EA-6B Prowler. Marine Fighter/Attack Training Squadron-501, the first squadron that will train Marine JSF pilots and maintainers, is expected to stand up at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., in April 2010 as part of the Joint Integrated Training Center. The first operational squadron will stand up in 2012. Even the Marina Militare (Italian Navy) is expeceted to receive 22 naval JSF that will replace the AV-8B+ Harrier and will operate from the new Italian aircraft carrier Cavour (that can accomodate 8 – 10 F-35B).

An F/A-18F of the VFA-41 and an E of the VFA-14 overflying USS Nimitz (courtesy USS Nimitz)

The BF-1 arrives at Patuxent River (Lockheed)

The BF-1 arrives at Patuxent River (Lockheed)

ECOLUX Airlines: my virtual airline in Airline Manager game

Airline Manager is an addicting Facebook game (http://apps.facebook.com/airline_manager/index.php) developed outside the Social Network, that let you create and manage your own airline; buy aircraft; choose routes according to the aircraft type and endurance, and to the demand for a particular destination; pay for catering and maintenance; purchase fuel (whose prices depend on the global market and change); invest in advertising and buy and sell other companies stocks. The goal of the game is to increase the value of the company by expanding your fleet and routes. Interestingly, the game is in real time, meaning that you can follow in “live mode” a flight in progress and if a flight lasts 14 hours (as my Rome – San Diego does), you have to wait all that time before the return flight can depart. Incidents, failures and personnel strike can occur, so you have to spend your money carefully because you could need some hundred thousands US Dollars to fix an aircraft or to give you pilots a pay raise.
But, first of all, you have to think to a name for your airline. The one I chose is EcoLux, from Ecological and Luxurious: Ecological because, today, both airlines and aircraft manufacturer are compelled to address environmental issues with a “green vision”; Luxurious because a modern airline with the ambition of growing fast has to provide first class services to its passengers to cope with important challengers like the rich Middle East airlines (Emirates, Ethiad, etc.). I created a logo (that you can see on the right image) for ECOLUX and a colour scheme according to it.
My virtual airline is expanding very fast so, if you have your own company on Airline Manager, I suggest you to invest on ECOLUX soon!