Category Archives: F-35

First F-35B Assembled Internationally Rolled Out of Cameri FACO Production Facility

It’s the first F-35B assembled outside of the U.S.

On May. 5, the first F-35B, the Short Take-Off Vertical Landing variant of the the F-35 Lightning II, destined to the Italian Navy, rolled out of the Final Assembly and Check Out (FACO) facility at Cameri, in northwestern Italy.

The aircraft, designated BL-1, is the first F-35B assembled internationally. It is expected to perform its first flight in late August and will be delivered to the Italian MoD in November 2017. After a series of “confidence flights” from Cameri, an Italian pilot will fly the first F-35B jet to Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Maryland, early in 2018 to conduct required Electromagnetic Environmental Effects certification. The next Italian F-35B aircraft is scheduled for delivery in November 2018.

According to a Lockheed Martin release, besides the first B example, two Italian F-35A aircraft will be delivered from Cameri this year, the first by July and the second in the fourth quarter. To date, seven F-35As have been delivered from the Cameri FACO; four of those jets are now based at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona, for international pilot training and three are at Amendola Air Base, near Foggia on the Adriatic coast. With these aircraft based in Italy and flown by the 13° Gruppo, the Aeronautica Militare (Italian Air Force) has already flown more than 100 flight hours.

In spite of a very low profile on the subject, Italy has achieved some important results with the F-35.

On Dec. 3, 2015, the ItAF welcomed the first F-35 at the Cameri FACO. That aircraft was also the first assembled and delivered outside the U.S.

On Feb. 5, 2016 the first Italian Air Force F-35, successfully completed the type’s very first transatlantic crossing landing at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Maryland. On Dec. 12, 2016, the Italian Air Force became the first service to take delivery of the first operational F-35s outside the United States.

“Italy is not only a valued F-35 program partner that has achieved many F-35 program ‘firsts’, but is also a critical NATO air component force, providing advanced airpower for the alliance for the coming decades,” Doug Wilhelm, Lockheed Martin F-35 Program Management vice president, said at the event for the roll out of the first F-35B. “Italian industry has participated in the design of the F-35 and Italian industry made components fly on every production F-35 built to date.”

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 Leonardo in conjunction with Lockheed Martin Aeronautics. According to Lockheed, 800 skilled personnel are engaged in full assembly of the Conventional Take-off/Landing F-35A and F-35B aircraft variants and is also producing 835 F-35A full wing sets to support all customers in the program.

The Cameri FACO has the only F-35B production capability outside the United States. It will assemble the 60 Italian F-35As and 30 F-35Bs (for a total of 90 aircraft to be procured by the Italian Air Force and Navy), will build 29 F-35A for the Royal Netherlands Air Force and 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 some initial 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.

Image credit: LM

 

This Cool Footage Shows U.S. F-35A Lightning II Combat Planes Flying Through The Famous Mach Loop For The First Time

The Joint Strike Fighter has flown through the world-famous Mach Loop Low Flying Area for the first time.

The clip below shows F-35A Lightning IIs belonging to the 34th Fighter Squadron, 388th Fighter Wing and the Air Force Reserve’s 466th Fighter Squadron, 419th Fighter Wing, deployed to RAF Lakenheath, UK, from Hill Air Force Base, Utah, enter the Mach Loop LFA (Low Flying Area) in Wales for the very first time on May 2.

The aircraft have arrived in the UK on Apr. 15, for the type’s first overseas training deployment to Europe and since then they have been quite active: along with flying several sorties alongside the local based F-15E Strike Eagles (some of them flown without the Radar Reflectors/Luneburg Lenses – as happened on Apr. 26), they have visited Estonia and then Bulgaria.

In this video by Neilb1940 you can see the aircraft maneuvering at low altitude more or less one year after the F-22 Raptors temporarily based at RAF Lakenheath in support of the European Reassurance Initiative visited the Loop for the first time.

Noteworthy, you can also easily spot the pretty distinctive wingtip vortices generated by the F-35.

The flaperon and wingtip vortices have long been debated: GAO claimed that these could affect the aircraft’s stealth performance; others suggest these visible “tubes of circulating air which are left behind the aircraft’s wing as it generates lift” may make the aircraft more easily picked up visually by an enemy pilot in a WVR (Within Visual Range) engagement even though some pilots have explained that they are not a factor because if you are close enough to see the F-35’s vortices, you are probably close enough to see the jet.

H/T @guidoolimpio for the heads-up

 

Two U.S. F-35s Have Deployed To Bulgaria Today

The U.S. Air Force F-35A Lightning II aircraft continue their tour of eastern Europe.

On Apr. 28, two U.S. Air Force F-35A Lightning II aircraft, 14-5094 and 14-5091, belonging to the 34th Fighter Squadron, from Hill Air Force Base and temporarily deployed to RAF Lakenheath, UK, arrived at Graf Ignatievo Air Base, Bulgaria.

The aircraft were supported by a single KC-135R Stratotanker, c/s “Nacho 81”, from 459th Air Refueling Wing, Joint Base Andrews, Maryland, that launched from RAF Mildenhall.

Interestingly, the 5th Gen. aircraft used the very same radio callsigns used by the F-35s involved in the JSF’s first ever visit to Estonia on Tuesday: “Conan 01” flight.

According to the U.S. DoD, today’s training deployment has been planned for some time and was conducted in close coordination with Bulgarian allies. “It allows the F-35A the opportunity to engage in familiarization training within the European theater while reassuring allies and partners of U.S. dedication to the enduring peace and stability of the region.”

“The aircraft and Airmen began arriving in Europe on April 15, and are scheduled to remain in Bulgaria for a brief period of time before returning to RAF Lakenheath to continue their training deployment.”

Already deployed to Graf Ignatievo Air Base, to take part in exercise Thracian Eagle 2017 were also 12 F-15C Eagle jets belonging to the 122nd Fighter Squadron of the 159th Fighter Wing, Louisiana Air National Guard that are in the involved in the drills along with the local-based Bulgarian Air Force MiG-29s as well as Su-25s from the Forward Deployment Air Base at Bezmer, L-39s from the Air Training Group at Dolna Mitropoliya Air Base, AS-532 AL, Mi-24 and Mi-17 helicopters from Krumovo Air Base, and air defence units.

Whilst “Nacho 81” could be tracked during its flight (to and back from) Bulgaria, this time the deployment to eastern Europe was not “accompanied” by any evident activity by U.S. or NATO intelligence gathering aircraft. In contrast, as already reported, on Apr. 25, flight tracking websites exposed the presence of a U.S. Air Force RC-135U Combat Sent, an RC-135W Rivet Joint and a RAF Airseeker over or around Estonia.

The KC-135R supporting the F-35 to Bulgaria. (image credit: Adsb Exchange)

 

U.S. F-35A stealth fighters to move to Estonia tomorrow. Meanwhile, the British Typhoons have arrived in Romania.

Some of the F-35A Lightning II aircraft currently at RAF Lakenheath will forward deploy to Estonia tomorrow. Meanwhile, the first RAF Typhoons have arrived in Romania.

According to information available to the Estonia ERR media outlet, an unspecified number of F-35s will arrive at Ämari air base, Estonia, on Tuesday, Apr. 25.

“The jets will remain in Estonia for several weeks and conduct training flights with other aircraft of the U.S. and allied air forces.”

Eight F-35s and 250 airmen belonging to the 34th Fighter Squadron, 388th Fighter Wing and the Air Force Reserve’s 466th Fighter Squadron, 419th Fighter Wing, Hill Air Force Base, Utah, have deployed to RAF Lakenheath recently (beginning with the first section of 6 aircraft on Apr. 15).

The 5th generation multirole combat aircraft have deployed to Europe for the first time in support of the European Reassurance Initiative. As done by the preceding US jets operating in the old continent as part of the so-called Theater Security Packages (TSPs), including the F-22 Raptors and the A-10 Thunderbolt IIs, they will visit various Baltic and eastern Europe airbases “to maximize training opportunities, affirm enduring commitments to NATO allies, and deter any actions that destabilize regional security.”

Meanwhile, on Apr. 24, RAF Typhoons have arrived at Mihail Kogalniceanu (MK) airbase near Constanta, in Romania for the first time in support of the NATO air policing mission. The aircraft will provide air policing over the Black Sea from May to September 2017.

According to the UK MoD, 135 Expeditionary Air Wing (EAW) consists of 150 personnel drawn from across the RAF, whose mission is to keep the fast jets flying during their four month deployment.

The mission of patrolling the skies along NATO’s eastern border was intensified following the Russia-Ukraine crisis. The arrival of the British Typhoons is the last of a series of measures “to deter a Russian aggression over the Black Sea.

RAF Typhoons arrive at Mihail Kogalniceanu (MK) airbase near Constanta, in Romania for the first time in support of the NATO air policing mission. (Image credit: Crown Copyright)

 

Here are first U.S. Air Force F-35As landing at RAF Lakenheath for their first European deployment

Six F-35A Lightning II belonging to the 34th FS from Hill Air Force Base, Utah, have arrived at RAF Lakenheath.

On Apr. 15, the F-35A 14-5094/HL, 14-5096/HL, 14-5097/HL, 14-5102/HL, 14-5098/HL and 13-5072/HL arrived at Royal Air Force Lakenheath, England, for the first overseas training deployment to Europe of the U.S. Air Force’s Joint Strike Fighter.

The aircraft belong to the 34th Fighter Squadron, 388th Fighter Wing and the Air Force Reserve’s 466th Fighter Squadron, 419th Fighter Wing, Hill Air Force Base, Utah, and will conduct air training over the next several weeks with other Europe-based aircraft in support of the European Reassurance Initiative.

F-35A Lightning II 14-5096/HL from the 34th Fighter Squadron at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, land at Royal Air Force Lakenheath, England, April 15, 2017.

The transatlantic flight was supported by Air Mobility Command and the 100th Air Refueling Wing, from RAF Mildenhall, England. Multiple air refueling aircraft from four different bases offloaded more than 400,000 pounds of fuel during the “tanker bridge” from the United States to Europe, according to the U.S. Air Force. C-17 and C-5 aircraft moved airlift support, moving maintenance equipment and personnel.

F-35A 14-5097/HL landing into RAF Lakenheath

“RAF Lakenheath will be the first overseas beddown location for the F-35A, this deployment allows our pilots and maintainers to learn more about the European operating environment and will improve our interoperability with partners in the region” said Gen. Tod D. Wolters, U.S. Air Forces in Europe, Air Forces Africa commander in a USAF release.

Interestingly, as done by USAF combat planes deployed to Europe as part of Theater Security Packages (TSPs), the F-35s will forward deploy to NATO nations to maximize training opportunities, build partnerships with allied air forces and gain a broad familiarity of Europe’s diverse operating conditions.

All the photographs in this post were taken at RAF Lakenheath by The Aviationist’s contributor Tony Lovelock.

The USAF F-35A 14-5102/HL in short final at Lakenheath

 

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