Tag Archives: F-35

Exercise Joint Stars 2018 put Italian Armed Forces most advanced “hardware” to test

F-35, T-346, Typhoon, AV-8B, CAEW among the assets involved Italy’s largest exercise supported (for the first time) by the U.S. Marine Corps too.

From May 7 to 19, more than 2,000 military, 25 aircraft and helicopters, dozens of land, naval and amphibious vehicles belonging to the Italian Air Force, Navy, Army were involved in the first phase of Italy’s largest joint drills this year: Exercise Joint Stars 2018. The aim of JS18 is “to achieve the highest possible level of interoperability among the Armed Forces, with an intelligent use of all specialties, to achieve a common goal, thanks also to the development and integration of common procedures “.

Joint Stars 2018 was designed to train commands and forces on the various types of missions that could be required in future national, multinational and coalition operations and is “a valuable opportunity to achieve, through the joint training of the Italian Army, Navy and Air Force synergy and economies, as well as to share resources and maximize interoperability in the Defense field, refining the capacity for intervention with a joint force.” Unlike the previous editions, the scenario included operations conducted within an environment degraded by cybernetic and chemical-biological and radioactive threats (CBRN).

A KC-767 escorted by Typhoon, T-346, F-35, Tornado IDS, AMX and AV-8B overflies “Deci”.

The first phase of JS18 saw the integration of four “federated” exercises within a LIVEX (Live Exercise), an exercise made of actual assets. In particular, the LIVEX integrated Exercise “Vega 18” led by the Italian Air Force; “Mare Aperto 2018” led by the Italian Navy; “Golden Wings” led by the Italian Army; and “Ramstein Guard 6-2018” exercise conducted by NATO. For the very first time this year, the JS drills saw the participation of a contingent of the U.S. Marine Corps.

An Italian Navy Harrier breaks overhead for landing in Decimomannu.

Italian Army Chinook.

The MOB (Main Operating Base) of the exercise was Decimomannu, in Sardinia, that hosted most of the participating assets, including the Italian Navy AV-8B+ Harrier II and NH-90, the Italian Army CH-47 and A-129 Mangusta as well as the MV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor and KC-130J aircraft, that took part in the airdrop onto the airfield and in a large Joint Personnel Recovery mission.

The U.S. Marine Corps Super Hercules during the airdrop onto Decimomannu airfield, MOB of JS18.

Dealing with the Italian Air Force, JS18 saw the involvement of all the most advanced “hardware” currently in service.

F-35A, Predator drones, G550 CAEW but also Eurofighter, Tornado and AMX jets flew missions aimed at achieving “Information Superiority” on the battlefield: indeed, access to and control of information has always played a crucial role in military operations. The Italian Air Force responds to this challenge with the use of highly specialized aircraft assets such as Predator, CAEW and F-35 and high-tech systems, such as the “RecceLite” and “Litening III” pods on Eurofighter, Tornado and AMX.

The F-35A Lightning II also flew as Aggressors in complex missions against the Eurofighter Typhoons.

Noteworthy, the Italian F-35A were involved also as Aggressors, alongside the T-346 aircraft: for instance, an air defense mission saw four Typhoons supported by one CAEW (“Blue Air”) fly against two T-346 and two F-35s (“Red Air”) supported by a NATO Da-20 EW (Electronic Warfare), whose role was to degrade the effectiveness of the interceptors radar and radio systems by using radar jamming and deception methods.

The T-346A of the 212° Gruppo (Squadron) from 61° Stormo were part of the Red Air.

The MQ-1C (Predator “A +”) and MQ-9A (Predator “B”) UAS (Unmanned Aerial Systems) were tasked with ISTAR (Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition and Reconnaissance) missions; the CAEW (Conformal Airborne Early Warning) aircraft, acted as AEW as well as “flying command post” proving particularly useful to support land, naval and air forces; the brand new F-35A Lightning II stealth aircraft made use of their high-end electronic intelligence gathering sensors combined with advanced sensor fusion capabilities to create a single integrated “picture” of the battlefield that could be shared in real-time with all the players.

MV-22, CH-47 NH-90 and a pair of A-129 involved in a PR (Personnel Recovery) mission.

Taking part in a Joint Stars exercise for the very first time were also the U.S. Marine Corps MV-22 and KC-130J.

Typhoon, Tornado IDS and AMX jets performed tactical reconnaissance missions on terrestrial targets using “RecceLite” and “Litening III” pods, whereas HH-139, HH-101, HH-212 helicopters along with the Eurofighter jets undertook SMI (Slow Mover Intercept) missions against NH.500 helicopter and Siai 208 light aircraft that played the “slow mover” role.

An AMX ACOL comes to landing in Decimomannu after a JS18 mission.

All the photographs in this article were taken by The Aviationist’s photographers Giovanni Maduli and Alessandro Caglieri.

Everything We Know (And Don’t Know) About Israel Launching World’s First Air Strikes Using The F-35 Stealth Aircraft

The Israeli Air Force Has Launched World’s First Air Strikes Using The F-35I Adir, IAF Chief Says.

Israel is the first country to have used the F-35 stealth aircraft in combat, the Israeli Air Force Commander, Maj. Gen. Amikam Norkin said on Tuesday, in remarks that were made public through the IDF’s official Twitter account.

According to Haaretz, the Chief of IAF also presented images, that have not surfaced thus far, showing the F-35I over Beirut, Lebanon and said that the stealth fighter did not participate in the last strike in Syria but did in two previous ones.

“The Adir planes are already operational and flying in operational missions. We are the first in the world to use the F-35 in operational activity,” he said.

According to local media, speaking at Herzliya conference (held earlier this month) Norkin also said that more than 100 surface-to-air missiles were fired at Israeli jets over Syria.

Whilst the involvement of the F-35 in real missions has been considered “imminent” by some analysts since the Israeli Air Force declared its first F-35 “Adir” operational on Dec. 6, 2017, this is the first time the IAF officially acknowledges, with very little details, the baptism of fire of its 5th generation aircraft.

Indeed, as some journalists have pointed out, it’s not completely clear where and how the F-35s were actually used. Did they strike in Syria and/or Lebanon? What kind of mission did they carry out? Actual air strike (i.e. dropping bombs) or “simple” armed (electronic) reconnaissance?

In the last few months we have observed a series of unconfirmed rumors that the F-35Is had been used to attack Syrian targets. The most recent one, that we completely debunked here, dates back to the end of March, when an alleged IAF F-35 mission into the Iranian airspace was reported by the Kuwaiti Al-Jarida newspaper. According to an “informed source” who had talked to Al-Jarida, two Adir stealth jets flew undetected over Syria and Iraq and snuck into the Iranian airspace, flying reconnaissance missions over the Iranian cities Bandar Abbas, Esfahan and Shiraz.

As reported back then, there were a lot of suspicious things in that story the most important of those was probably the media outlet that broke the news, Al-Jarida, often used to deliver Israeli propaganda/PSYOPS messages. In fact closing the previous article about the “mission over Iran” I wrote:

“The mission over Iran seems […] just a bogus claim most probably spread on purpose as part of some sort of PSYOPS aimed at threatening Israel’s enemies.

Obviously, this does not change the fact that the more they operate and test their new F-35 stealth aircraft, the higher the possibilities the IAF will use the Adirs for the real thing when needed. But this does not seem the case. At least not in Iran and not now.”

Fast forward to today news, the combat debut of the F-35I has been officially confirmed by the Israeli Air Force Chief. With no more details as to where and how the Adir were committed, it’s hard to make any further analysis. For sure, what can be said is that the IAF has proved once again its ability to pioneer combat testing of new aircraft. Although we don’t know the real stategic value of the missions undertaken by the 5th generation aircraft, it’s clear the Israeli have considered the sorties worth the risk. A risk that has become more real on Feb. 10, 2018, when one F-16I Sufa that had entered the Syrian airspace to strike Iranian targets in response to an Iranian drone that had violated the Israeli airspace (before being shot down by an AH-64 Apache helicopter) was targeted by the Syrian Air Defenses and crashed after a large long-range outdated SA-5 missile (one of 27 fired against the jets), hit the Israeli F-16. In that case, in spite the on board warning system of the F-16I alerted the crew of the incoming threat, the pilot and navigator failed to deploy countermeasures.

Although the IAF determined the loss of the Sufa was caused by a “professional error” many sources suggested that the first downing of an IAF jet to the enemy fire since the First Lebanon War could accelerate the commitment of the stealthy F-35Is for the subsequent missions.

What kind of missions? Hard to say. We can’t but speculate here but unless there was some really critical target to hit in a heavily defended airspace, the F-35s might have been initially involved as part of larger “packages” that included other special mission aircraft and EW (Electronic Warfare) support where the Adir jets would also (or mostly) exploit their ELINT abilities to detect, geolocate and classify enemy‘s systems. In fact, along with its Low Observability feature, the F-35 provides the decision makers high-end electronic intelligence gathering sensors combined with advanced sensor fusion capabilities to create a single integrated picture of the battlefield: in other words, not only can the F-35 conduct an air strike delivering bombs but it can also direct air strikes of other aircraft using standoff weapons. The F-35s are known to be able to carry out a dual role: “combat battlefield coordinators,” collecting, managing and distributing intelligence data while also acting as “kinetic attack platforms,” able to drop their ordnance on the targets and pass targeting data to older 4th Gen. aircraft via Link-16, if needed. More or less the same task considered for the USMC F-35B that have flown this kind of missions in exercises against high-end threats in 2016.

Once again it’s worth remembering that along with the inherent risk of flying a combat mission with a brand new technology, as already reported here, the heavy Russian presence in Syria may cause some concern and somehow limit the way the Israeli used or are going to use the F-35 in combat: the Russian radars and ELINT platforms are currently able to identify takeoffs from Israeli bases in real-time and might use collected data to “characterize” the F-35’s signature at specific wavelengths. In fact, tactical fighter-sized stealth aircraft are built to defeat radar operating at specific frequencies; usually high-frequency bands as C, X, Ku and S band where the radar accuracy is higher (in fact, the higher the frequency, the better is the accuracy of the radar system).

Actually as pointed out by Israeli political analyst Guy Plopsky, unlike Haaretz and other local media with English pages, other Israeli media outlets (in Hebrew) quoted IAF chief as specifically stating that the IAF had “struck twice” with the F-35 on “two different fronts in the Middle East“, suggesting IAF Adir may have carried out weapons delivery…

This was later confirmed in an official post on the IAF website: “We performed the F-35’s first ever operational strike. The IAF is a pioneer and a world leader in operating air power”.

Anyway, let’s wait and see if other details emerge. For the moment let’s just take note of the first officially-confirmed combat use of the controversial F-35 Lightning II.

Top image credit: IAF

 

Turkey’s First F-35A Lightning II Stealth Aircraft Makes Maiden Flight

Here’s the first Turkish F-35 stealth jet.

On May 10, 2018, the first F-35A destined to the Turkish Air Force performed its maiden flight at Lockheed Martin Ft. Worth facility, Texas. Piloted by US Navy test pilot Cmdr. Tony Wilson, the aircraft (serial 18-0001) took off at 14.47LT and landed at 16.00LT. The photo in this post was taken by Highbrass Photography’s Clinton White during Tukey’s F-35’s (designation AT-1) first sortie.

Turkey should be officially delivered the first of 100 F-35As on order, on Jun. 21, in the U.S.

Chased by a LM two-seat F-16 the first F-35A destined to the Turkish Air Force flies over Ft. Worth.

Two TuAF pilots are currently being trained in the U.S.; after the training is completed, and another stealth aircraft is delivered, the F-35 jets are planned to be brought to Turkey in September of 2019. The trained pilots will fly the two F-35s from the U.S., accompanied by a refueling plane, the Turkish Anadolu Agency reported.

It looks like the delivery of the first F-35 fighter will take place in spite a number of U.S. congressmen have urged the U.S. administration to suspend the procurement of these fighters to Turkey because of the latter’s decision to buy Russian S-400 advanced air defense systems:  indeed, there’s widespread concern that the Turkish procurement could give Moscow access to critical details about the way their premiere surface-to-air missile system performs against the new 5th generation aircraft. “If they take such a step at a moment when we are trying to mend our bilateral ties, they will definitely get a response from Turkey. There is no longer the old Turkey,” Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu told private broadcaster CNN Türk in an interview on May 6, according to Hurriyet Daily media outlet.

Make sure to visit Clinton White’s Flickr photostream for more cool shots!

Here Are The Highlights of ILA Berlin 2018 Air Show

Rich static display and modest dynamic program for an airshow with many interesting “themes”.

Last weekend we attended the ILA Air Show held at the Berlin Schönefeld airport. The event, one of the largest aerospace trade exhibitions held in Germany, was organized by the German Aerospace Industries Association (BDLI) and Messe Berlin GmbH.

Volker Thum, Chief Executive of the BDLI, reported outstanding results: “This ILA was the ’best ILA ever‘. We have continued to develop the world’s oldest aviation and space exhibition with conspicuous success, making it our industry’s leading trade show for innovation.”

The dynamic displays in Germany are somewhat limited by the strict regulations pertaining to, i.e. the minimum altitudes and display envelope limits, which partially resulted from the Frecce Tricolori crash at the Ramstein Air Base, back in 1988. Therefore, ILA is not really a place where you go to admire the dynamic displays in their full glory. However, the static display in Berlin was one of the most impressive one could ever witness.

The Antonov An-225 Mriya was definitely one of the show’s highlights. The Antonov Design Bureau decided to send the giant aircraft to Berlin, and it was displayed on the static. Compared to any other airframe, the Mriya is simply enormous. Even the A380 which is the largest commercial airliner in existence looked small, compared to the Ukrainian airlifter.

The giant An-225

Antonov’s presence at ILA stemmed from the fact that the company decided to declare its willingness to increase its involvement in the NATO SALIS (Strategic Airlift International Solution) program. It was in April this year when Volga-Dnepr airlines, the only (alongside Antonov) operator of the An-124 heavy airlifters, resigned from its involvement in the program. The Russians will cease rendering of the services for NATO as of Jan. 2019, reportedly due to restructuring; however it is also very plausible that decisions made are a response to the increased pressure caused by the sanctions imposed on Russia by the West. Antonov declared, during the ILA event, that it could increase its SALIS engagement to replace the Russian operator with its fleet of An-124, An-22 and An-225 aircraft (only a single example of the latter one exists).

The static display also featured Airbus Beluga, placed alongside the Airbus’s largest passenger aircraft, the A380. The particular airliner displayed in Berlin was the 100th airframe delivered to the Emirates airline. Even though Beluga is not larger than the A380, its appearance and size are definitely a sight to behold.

Airbus A350 during its dynamic display at ILA.

Airbus, Leonardo and Dassault consortium also premiered the EUROMALE UAV, the first unmanned aerial system (UAS) designed for flight in non-segregated airspace. The airframe is a twin-turboprop with pusher-propeller design employed.

Another prevalent theme that somehow influenced the Berlin exhibition is the German Tornado strike aircraft replacement. The static display was rich in modern fighter aircraft. The Germans are looking to replace their Tornados, in strike and electronic warfare variants (IDS and ECR respectively). Luftwaffe currently operates 90 of these jets, and the replacement process is to begin in 2025. Alongside Germany, Finland (H-X program) and Poland (Harpia program) are also looking forward to modernize their air forces.

The GAF Typhoon taking off for its display.

Germany and France are also working on a joint next generation fighter program – FCAS – with the jet expected to be introduced into service in 2040. The program involves Airbus and Dassault. Notably, both companies are currently offering advanced 4th generation designs: Eurofighter and Rafale. However, given the scope of technological development and industrial effort required to create the 5th generation jet, the project’s joint nature is a natural way to go. Also, considering the timeline for introducing the new aircraft, some intermediary measure would be required to fill in the capability gap that would occur, once the Tornadoes are withdrawn. This is the main reason why the Germans are still considering procurement of 4+ or 5th generation fighters in the meantime.

Airbus, during the ILA event, declared that the company is ready to make the Typhoon nuclear capable. Nonetheless, some voices suggest that instead of acquiring more Eurofighters, the Germans could make some steps towards purchasing the fifth generation F-35 aircraft. The static display also featured F-15 Eagle and F/A-18F Super Hornet. To meet the Luftwaffe’s electronic warfare requirement, Boeing could also offer its EA-18G Growler jet. One should note that Luftwaffe is expressly claiming that the F-35 would be the best fit for the replacement program. Two such aircraft were displayed in the static area. It should also be noted that an F-35/Typhoon combo has also already been selected by some nations as the way to go, including the RAF or the Italian Aeronautica Militare. It is evident that the jets are complementary, with the F-35 acting primarily as the sensor and situational awareness asset (using its stealth and net-centric properties), while the Typhoon may be acting as the missile carrier, adding to the performance of the missiles. Given the Typhoon’s thrust-to-weight ratio, and integration with the Meteor BVR AAM, the jet is a perfect platform that enhances the kinetic performance of the already very capable air-to-air effector.

The F-35 was not flying during the German show.

All of the aforesaid aircraft were displayed within the static area. Unfortunately, and disappointingly, the F-35 was not flying during the German show, despite its expected and rumored presence in the air. Notably, the F-35, while flying to make it debut in Germany also made the longest nonstop flight – 11 hours and 10 aerial refueling operations.

Tornados and Eurofighters were flying during ILA. Moreover, “Ghost Tiger” livery Typhoon had its premiere during the show in Berlin, with a quite impressive dynamic display. The very same jet will be displayed during the NATO Tiger Meet happening in Poznan this month (needless to say, we will be attending this event as well).

The Germans are also looking forward to replace their CH-53G heavy lift helicopters. The proposed replacements include the CH-53K King Stallion that made its debut during the ILA Show. However, on Saturday, when we attended the event, neither could it be seen flying, nor was it present in the static display area. Another proposal that Luftwaffe may look at is the CH-47 Chinook. This capable airframe was brought to Germany by the RAF and it was wearing the RAF centenary livery. Its transport capabilities and agility (impressive, given its size) were also presented during the dynamic display.

Berlin is working, in collaboration with France, on acquiring a new MPA platform. This could also have been witnessed in the static display, with Lockheed P-3, Boeing P-8 and CASA C295 MPA all showcased on the show’s ground. Kawasaki P-1 was a highlight of the German show. Not only was this jet presented on the ground, but also performed an impressive dynamic display. The Japanese design is undoubtedly a rare sight on any European air show. Roadmap for the said project is expected to be unveiled later this year.

The Japanese Kawasaki P-1 was among the highlights of ILA 2018.

Another highlight of the dynamic display that could not have been overlooked was the Il-2 Sturmovik aircraft brought to Berlin by the Russians. The venerable WWII fighter/bomber performed a dynamic display over the ILA 2018 grounds. Many of the people attending the show have seen the aircraft for the first time ever. It is said that only two flying examples exist. We have already seen the famous Russian airframe fly last year, during the MAKS 2017 event, when it was premiered. Vintage aircraft also included Yak-3 and CAC13 Boomerang as well – both were flying a dynamic display. We could also see a Bell 47 that flew with the MASH series soundtrack in the background.

Airbus showcased its A350 airliner in the air. The Luftwaffe staged several role displays (interception/scramble, with Pilatus turboprop acting as the intruder, CSAR operation, MEDEVAC operation), as well as an air parade, featuring the German aircraft in a variety of formations and configurations, including a great number of helicopters ranging from H145 with CH-53 Stallion to finish with.

Furthermore, Red Bull also showcased its aircraft in the air, including the DC-6, silver P-38 Lightning, the T-28 Trojan with its special smoke trails (the smoke generators in case of this aircraft are mounted in the wingtips which makes the smoke swirl and form rings in the sky) and the Alpha Jet that made a joint formation flight.

Dynamic display was also performed by the Spanish team Patrulla Aguilla that showcased its formation flying skills in the German sky. Their display was one of the highlights of the German event, as the Spanish team was the only large formation aerobatic group that attended the show in Berlin.

Overall, the show was impressive, especially when it comes to the static display and it was a good warm-up before the proper air show season begins in May. Anyway, it is going to be very interesting to watch and follow the developments in the European fighter aircraft programs. The competition and choices expected to be made between 4+ and 5th generation aircraft will undoubtedly be tough, in case of the European nations that would be facing such a challenge: Finland, Poland and Germany.

Images: Jacek Siminski and Michał Prokurat

PS We’ve also met the Sturmovik during its return trip at the Poznan International Airport, as it made a refuelling stop there! Thanks for organization of the visit go to Witold Łożyński and the Ławica airport staff!

Why Does the Public Have Trouble Understanding the F-35? Air Force Reserve Pilots Tell Us Why the F-35A is a Powerful Force Multiplier

“Think of the Apple computer when it was first built in the 1970s and the iPhone now. That is the difference we are talking about.”

That’s how U.S. Air Force Reserve Major Scott Trageser, callsign “Worm”, described the single largest benefit of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program for the U.S. Air Force Reserve and USAF along with other F-35 partner nations.

Maj. Scott “Worm” Trageser and Capt. Mark “Quatro” Tappendorf of the Air Force Reserve 466th Fighter Squadron, 419th Fighter Wing, from Hill AFB, Utah, spoke to TheAviationist.com about their Lockheed Martin F-35A Lighting II aircraft before flying an aerial refueling training mission over the Atlantic Ocean with KC-10 Extender aerial tankers from the 514th Air Mobility Wing of Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst last week.

Air Force Reserve F-35A Lightning II pilots Maj. Scott “Worm” Trageser and Capt. Mark “Quatro” Tappendorf meet reporters at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst last week. (Photo: Tom Demerly/TheAviationist.com)

“The ability to put all this new software, new radar technology, new electronic warfare in a thing called ‘fusion’ and package it in a low-observable platform. It is a huge advantage. I can get in there and kill their guy before he sees me, both air-to-air and air-to-ground.”

Maj. Trageser and Capt. Tappendorf described perhaps the single most significant force multiplier of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter Program, and likely the most misunderstood.

Think of how you use your smartphone connected with your car: While driving you get directions, find restaurants, make reservations and invite friends for dinner. You can even voice-text them to bring a gift to dinner or change the location of the event while on your way. Your car’s sensors help you stay in your lane and avoid collisions with other moving cars while you communicate. A new app you just downloaded tells you if there is a speed trap ahead or if there are delays along the way. Your smartphone and car integrates to become a driving systems manager, social coordinator and concierge directed by you through voice communication.

Envision a similar, hardened “smart” networking capability flying into a heavily defended airspace, collecting information about ever-changing defenses and defeating them while remaining nearly impossible to detect, finding and automatically prioritizing multiple targets in the air and on the ground even as they change, securely sharing that information with other weapons systems and even employing their weapons against multiple targets, all while going up to Mach 1.5+.

In the F-35, there’s an app for that.

An F-35A Lightning II being maintained by ground crew from Hill AFB during its first visit to Selfridge ANGB in Michigan last year.

Proliferate that force-multiplying capability by sharing it with your most trusted friends who help bring the overall program cost down with a group buy-in, and you have a rudimentary understanding of the F-35 program concept.

The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program as a whole passed a major milestone last week when it accomplished the final developmental test flight of the System Development and Demonstration (SDD) phase of the program on April 12, 2018.

The System Development and Demonstration (SDD) phase was a massive, historically unprecedented flight test and development program that has, “Operated for more than 11 years mishap-free, conducting more than 9,200 sorties, accumulating over 17,000 flight hours, and executed more than 65,000 test points to verify the design, durability, software, sensors, weapons capability and performance for all three F-35 variants” according to U.S. Navy Vice Admiral. Mat Winter, Director, Joint Strike Fighter Program, Office of the Secretary of Defense.

Vice Adm. Winter went on to say, “Congratulations to our F-35 Test Team and the broader F-35 Enterprise for delivering this new powerful and decisive capability to the warfighter.” Vice Adm. Winter’s remarks were published in an April 12, 2018 media release by Lockheed Martin.

An F-35A Lightning II pilot from from Hill AFB wearing his carbon fiber flight helmet equipped with the Rockwell Collins ESA Vision Systems Helmet Mounted Display System (HMDS).

Eleven years ago, when the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter SDD program began the U.S. Department of Defense said in an official statement that:
“Nine nations are partnering in the F-35’s SDD phase: The United States, United Kingdom, Italy, the Netherlands, Turkey, Canada, Denmark, Norway and Australia. Partnership in SDD entitles those countries to bid for work on a best value basis, and participate in the aircraft’s development. Additionally, Israel and Singapore have agreed to join the program as a Security Cooperation Participants.”

But the F-35 program headlines also include speed bumps associated with any major international technology program and there are still many (for someone “too many”) things yet to be fixed.

Defensenews.com’s Valerie Insinna reported in an April 12, 2018 article that, “The Pentagon has suspended acceptance of most F-35 deliveries as manufacturer Lockheed Martin and the F-35 program office debate who should be responsible for fixing jets after a production issue last year.”

Insinna quoted a Lockheed spokeswoman as saying, “While all work in our factories remains active, the F-35 Joint Program Office has temporarily suspended accepting aircraft until we reach an agreement on a contractual issue and we expect this to be resolved soon.”

In another March 5, 2018 report by program expert Insinna, she reported that, “Stealth features [are] responsible for half of F-35 defects.”
But the F-35 operators seem to consider these delays minor given the ambition and scope of the overall F-35 Joint Strike Fighter vision, a program that Time magazine called, “The costliest weapons program in human history.”

Two F-35A Lightning IIs participated in an integrated air superiority and close air support demonstration at Nellis AFB during the Aviation Nation Air & Space Expo in November, 2017.

Commensurate with the massive costs associated with F-35, the program has changed nearly every aspect of the modern battlefield, from gender integration to insurgent tactics.

For the first time ever, a woman took command of the U.S. Air Force Reserve’s 419th Fighter Wing, the Air Force’s only reserve F-35A fighter wing at Hill Air Force Base, Utah. Colonel Regina “Torch” Sabric assumed command on April 14, 2018 from Col. David “Shooter” Smith, who previously served as the commander since November 2015.

According to an official release from Hill AFB, “Sabric will lead more than 1,200 reservists who train in F-35 operations, maintenance, and mission support, along with a medical squadron. These reservists serve part-time – at least one weekend per month and two weeks per year – and train to the same standard as active duty.”

Colonel Sabric’s command of the 419th marks multiple milestones for U.S. air power that include integration of reserve assets, gender equality and operational deployment of what is arguably the most advanced air combat technology on earth.

An F-35A Lightning II of the 466th Fighter Squadron at Hill AFB, Utah under a KC-10 tanker during a training mission over New Jersey last week.

At the same time and half way around the globe, the arrival of F-35I Adir aircraft into operational Israeli service on December 6, 2017 has somehow struck fear in Israel’s adversaries and, as part of what was probably a PSYOPS campaign, the presence of the aircraft in Israeli service has sparked unsubstantiated rumors that it has already been used in secret air strikes and missions in Syria or Iran. It is likely that air defenses in the region have already had to make adaptations to try to counter the threat of the new Israeli F-35Is, even though it is unlikely they have yet to be flown in combat. Merely the arrival of Israel’s F-35Is has already begun to change the battlespace in the region, giving Israel a powerful new deterrent.

Before Maj. Scott “Worm” Trageser and Capt. Mark “Quatro” Tappendorf left our briefing to prepare for our refueling mission over the Atlantic, Maj. Trageser told us, “We used to have over 50 fighter squadrons in the combat air force, now we have around 26.” That has made the quality over quantity and force-multiplier integration of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program even more relevant.