Category Archives: F-35

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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The U.S. Air Force is deploying the F-35A Lightning II aircraft to Europe this weekend

The Pentagon has just announced the first deployment to Europe for the U.S. Air Force F-35A Lightning II aircraft.

The U.S. Air Force will deploy a “small number” of F-35A Lightning II aircraft this weekend on a long-planned training deployment to Europe.

Here’s the statement of the Department of Defense:

“The aircraft are scheduled to conduct training with other U.S. and NATO aircraft based in Europe for several weeks as part of the European Reassurance Initiative.

This training deployment signifies an important milestone and natural progression of the F-35 program, allowing the Air Force to further demonstrate the operational capabilities of the fifth generation fighter aircraft. It also assists in refining requirements for eventually basing the F-35A in Europe, which is scheduled to receive the aircraft in the early 2020s. Once the aircraft arrive in Europe, U.S. Air Forces in Europe and U.S. European Command will release additional information as it becomes available about the F-35A’s training deployment.”

Where the aircraft are going to be based has not been unveiled yet. Whereas some sources believe it will be RAF Lakenheath, UK, others suggest it will be Spangdahlem, Germany.

The one about to start in the weekend will be the JSF’s first European deployment and the first overseas deployment for the U.S. Air Force F-35A. On Jan. 9, 2017, Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 121 (VMFA-121), an F-35B squadron with 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, departed MCAS (Marine Corps Air Station) Yuma, Arizona, for relocation to MCAS Iwakuni, Japan, in what was the first deployment of the U.S. Joint Strike Fighter outside of CONUS (Continental US).

 

U.S. Marine Corps F-35B to take part in South Korean drills amid growing nuclear tension with North

The USMC Joint Strike Fighters based in Japan will take part in Foal Eagle joint exercise with South Korea. A rather symbolic move.

Some F-35B STOVL (Short Take Off Vertical Landing) are taking part in Exercise Foal Eagle in South Korea, according to U.S. military sources who talked to Yonhap News Agency.

The aircraft Lightning II will carry out “ground attack” tasks during the two-month drills.

“The addition of the F-35B is meant to deliver a strong message to the North that they could be used against the rogue state in case of a conflict breaking out on the Korean Peninsula,” an official said to the South Korean media outlets.

Earlier this week North Korea fired off four ballistic missiles into the seas near Japan in the latest of a long series of nuclear threats to the US, Japan and South Korea.

Although the attendance of the 5th generation stealth aircraft in the exercise can be seen as a message in response to Kim Jong Un’s growing missile threats it was first speculated as the first U.S. Marine Corps F-35B squadron was deployed to its new homebase in Japan.

Indeed, on Jan. 9, 2017, Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 121 (VMFA-121), an F-35B squadron with 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, departed MCAS (Marine Corps Air Station) Yuma, Arizona, relocated to MCAS Iwakuni, Japan.

Formerly a 3rd MAW F/A-18 Hornet squadron, the VMFA-121 “Green Knights” has achieved IOC (Initial Operational Capability) with the JSF on Jul. 31, 2015.

In October 2016, a contingent of 12 F-35Bs took part in Developmental Test III aboard USS America followed by the Lightning Carrier “Proof of Concept” demonstration on the carrier on Nov. 19, 2016.

During the POC, the aircraft proved it can operate at-sea, employing a wide array of weapons loadouts with the newest software variant and some of the most experienced F-35B pilots said that “the platform is performing exceptionally.

Although the F-35B is the most modern combat plane in the region and can theoretically be used as part of a larger package to hit very well defended North Korean targets in case of war, the presence of a handful stealth multirole aircraft (just 10 aircraft deployed to Japan, 6 more are reportedly joining the USMC squadron at Iwakuni by August this year), is mostly symbolic and must be considered as part of a wider military force, an armada that, if needed, would also include B-1B Lancers deployed to Guam to support the U.S. Pacific Command’s (USPACOM) Continuous Bomber Presence mission, U.S. Air Force B-52 Stratofortress and B-2 Spirit stealth bombers (that have already conducted extended deterrence missions over the Korean Peninsula in the past years); along with other USAF from land bases and U.S. Navy aircraft from aircraft carriers, including the F-16 in Wild Weasel role and the EA-18G Growlers Electronic Attack assets, to name but few.

Image credit: Lockheed Martin

 

 

Meet The First Female F-35 Pilot

USAF Lt. Col. Christine Mau Is The First Woman to Fly the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. This Is Why It Does, And Doesn’t Matter.

It was May 7, 2015. Eglin Air Force Base, Florida. In a (today) seemingly minor event in aviation history deputy-commander of the U.S. Air Force 33rd Fighter Wing Operations Group, Lt. Col. Christine Mau, became the first female ever to fly the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.

The event marked several ongoing milestones, the first woman to fly an F-35 anywhere in the world, but also the increasing integration of female combat pilots into the most advanced flight operations in the world.

“Women have been flying fighters in combat for over 20 years” Lt. Col. Mau said in an interview with Air Force media.

Her remarks de-emphasized the gender topic and focused on the performance of the (then) new F-35A Lightning II. At the time Lt. Col. Mau flew the F-35A for the first time, there were only 86 other (male) pilots certified to fly the F-35A in the entire U.S. Air Force.

While there have been cultural gender-biased barriers to entry for women in combat roles in most armed services some of the barriers to entry for female- and male- combat pilots were technical. In October of 2015 the U.S. Air Force required that any pilot using the F-35 Lightning II’s Martin-Baker US16E ejection seat requires a minimum pilot weight of 136 pounds. Martin-Baker’s original specification for pilot weight in the US16E ejection seat was 103 pounds. The temporary change was implemented by the Air Force from concerns about ejection seat performance in specific areas of the aircraft’s flight performance envelope. The Air Force and Martin-Baker have subsequently published that the weight restriction will be lifted in April 2017 according to media outlet Defense News. The article went on to characterize the original weight restriction as be imposed as a result of “high risk of severe or potentially fatal neck injuries upon being ejected from the aircraft.”

“Flying is a great equalizer,” Mau told Air Force media in 2015. “The plane doesn’t know or care about your gender as a pilot, nor do the ground troops who need your support,” Lt. Col. Mau said. “You just have to perform. That’s all anyone cares about when you’re up there — that you can do your job, and that you do it exceptionally well.”

Being the first female to fly the F-35A was not Lt. Col. Mau’s first page in the aviation history book. She also flew the first all-female combat sortie conducted by the U.S. Air Force in 2011 when she and an all-female maintenance and planning crew launched an F-15E Strike Eagle combat operation against insurgents in Afghanistan’s Kunar Valley.

Lt. Col. Mau comes from a family of aviators. Her father was a C-130 pilot in the Air National Guard and a commercial pilot for Continental Airlines. She is a graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy in the class of 1997.

Her contributions to military aviation not only as an outstanding pilot and leader but also as a woman prove that physics and aerodynamics do not acknowledge gender, and that in the air, every pilot is equal on the basis of gender.

Image credit: Martin Baker and U.S. Air Force

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