Tag Archives: F-35A Lightning II

Report: 2017 Aviation Nation Air and Space Expo Celebrates USAF 70th Anniversary at Nellis AFB

Expo Showcases USAF Heritage, Capabilities and Breaking Barriers in Military Aviation.

It is the premiere U.S. Air Force air show: the Aviation Nation Air and Space Expo at Nellis AFB outside Las Vegas, Nevada. This year’s Aviation Nation Air & Space Expo celebrates the 70th Anniversary of the U.S. Air Force with displays and demonstrations rarely seen at any other air show. The theme of the show is “Breaking Barriers” and showcases advances that have crossed gender and race in the U.S. Air Force.

Nellis Air Force Base is adjacent to the sprawling Nellis Range farther north. The range covers a total of 4,500 square miles. It is home of the Nevada Test and Training Range, Nevada National Security Site, Tonopah Test Range, Groom Range, Tikaboo Valley and the fabled “Area 51”. To the southwest is “Star Wars Canyon”, one of the premiere low-flying training areas in the world. It is one of the few places where lucky aviation photographers can photograph real world, low-level flight training- if they’re lucky.

Part of what differentiates Aviation Nation from other air expos and air shows around the world are the unique Air Force units that live at Nellis, and those units’ capability to demonstrate the air force mission better than anyone. While Aviation Nation only covers two days of the year, the capabilities and missions demonstrated during the expo are lived every day by the officers and airmen of Nellis.

One of the most unique and dynamic demonstrations at Aviation Nation is the USAF Warfighter Demo, a combined air and ground demo that showcases the unique Aggressor units and their capability to simulate opposing forces and tactics. The demo also highlights Air Force air superiority capabilities, close air support and Combat Search and Rescue missions and capabilities.

For the first time at an airshow the Lockheed F-35A Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter demonstrated its role in both close air support and also air superiority in a single mission. The F-35A flew in the Warfighter Demo alongside the A-10C Thunderbolt II. The demo reinforced the role of F-35A as a complementary asset to the A-10C, and an aircraft that can use its advanced capability to fill the role of the A-10C in addition to performing the air dominance mission.

The demo began with a simulated attack on Nellis Air Force Base performed by F-16s of the 64th Aggressor Squadron. F-15 Eagles on ready alert responded by taking off to contest the aggressors. A pair of F-35A Lighting IIs arrived and the Aggressors were quickly routed by the F-35s and F-15s.

A pair of F-15 Eagles leap off the runway at Nellis AFB during the Air Combat Demo. (All photos: Tom Demerly/TheAviationist)

Following the air combat phase of the demonstration a simulated rescue of a downed airman featured HH-60G rescue helicopters and A-10C Thunderbolt II aircraft providing close air support. The new component of the close air support demonstration was seeing the F-35As transition from their air superiority role in the first demo to the air support operation in the second phase of the demo, providing simulated close air support along with the A-10Cs during the rescue demo. The message in the demo was clear, the F-35A can perform the close air support mission. While this was only a demonstration, it did provide at least the visual insight that the F-35A can do close air support (CAS). The demo showed the low altitude, close support capability of the F-35A alongside the A-10C for the first time at Aviation Nation.

A pair of F-35As performed close air support (CAS) alongside A-10s in the Air Combat Demo.

Highlights of the veteran, military and media day at Aviation Nation on Friday, November 10, 2017 included a surprise visit by USAF Air Combat Command Commander, General James M. “Mike” Holmes. General Holmes inspected a specially painted F-15 Eagle honoring the city of Las Vegas in the wake of the tragic mass shooting on October 1, 2017.

General James M. “Mike” Holmes, Commander, Air Combat Command (right) inspects the special livery F-15 Eagle.

General James M. “Mike” Holmes with members of the team responsible for the special F-15 and surprise F-16.

There was the surprise unveiling of an F-16 Fighting Falcon (shown in the top image) also painted in a new, commemorative livery honoring Las Vegas and the memory of victims lost and survivors recovering from the October 1st mass shooting.

The Aviation Nation Air and Space Expo takes place this weekend, Saturday, November 11 and Sunday, November 12, 2017 at Nellis AFB outside Las Vegas, Nevada. Admission is free to the public.

Italian Air Force Typhoon, AMX, Tornado, T-346 And F-35A Jets As Well As Greek F-4E Phantoms Take Part In Italy’s Largest Drills In 2017

Exercise Vega 2017 put the Italian Air Force’s most advanced “hardware” to test.

Vega 2017 (VG17) is the name of the Italian Air Force-led aerial exercise included in Joint Stars 2017, Italy’s largest joint drills organized this year “to train commands and forces undertaking various types of missions that may be required in future national and multinational operations. ”

The JS17 developed through two phases. The first one, dubbed Virtual Flag 2017 (VF17), took place from Jun. 10 to 15 and was a Command Post Exercise / Computer Assisted Exercise (CPX / CAX): a virtual exercise that, among the other things, simulated the planning and execution of an Air Heavy (AH) Theater Ballistic Missile Defense (TBMD)-oriented Small Joint Operation (SJO). Noteworthy, VF17 also featured several cyber threats and attacks to the network used to disseminate information among participating units.

The second part of the JS17, which began on Sept. 25 in the form of a CPX, continued from Oct. 16 to 27 as three “federated” exercises within a LIVEX (Live Exercise), an exercise made of actual assets. In particular, this phase saw the integration of three exercises: “Lampo 17” led by the Italian Army; “Mare Aperto 2017” led by the Italian Navy; and “Vega 2017,” the Italian Air Force’s exercise.

The Livex phase of JS17 focused on a SJO in the form of a Non-combatant Evactuation Operation (NEO) and included a series of tactical events, including an amphibious operation.

Dealing with the Italian Air Force, VG17 saw the involvement of 1,000 military, 40 aircraft, 7 airbases, one GCI site and several C2 (command and control) units, the task of those was to ensure air superiority within the context of a CSO (Crisis Support Operation) as well as various other missions flown in support of the other Armed Forces, including CAS (Close Air Support), SEAD (Suppression of Enemy Air Defenses), CSAR (Combat Search And Rescue), AEW-BM & C missions (Airborne Early Warning – Battlefield Management and Communication), tactical transport of operational personnel, evacuation of injured or endangered civilians.

An ItAF Typhoon with the 36° Stormo from Gioia del Colle, deployed to Trapani, during aerial refueling ops with a KC-767.

The MOB (Main Operating Base) of the exercise was Trapani, in Sicily, where Eurofighter Typhoon aircraft with the 4°, 36° and 37° Stormo (the local-based Wing), along with Tornado IDS and ECR of the 6° Stormo and AMX of the 51° Stormo were deployed.

ItAF AMX ACOL are currently deployed to Kuwait as part of the Task Force Air Kuwait supporting the coalition involved in the air war on Daesh performing reconnaissance missions. The unit has already logged more than 3.000 FH in theater.

Decimomannu, in Sardinia, was the DOB (Deployment Operating Base) for the T-346 belong to the 212° Gruppo of the 61° Stormo , for the C-27J belonging to the 46^ Brigata Aerea, for the HH-101 and HH-139 of the 15° Stormo, for the HH-212 of the 9° Stormo.

The HH-212 of the 21° Gruppo wearing the Tiger Meet special livery.

F-4E Phantom jets of the 339 Mira (Squadron) of the Hellenic Air Force, at their latest international appearance before the unit was disbanded, after 65 years of history, on Oct. 31, 2017, took part in VG17 operating from “Deci” as well.

Four Hellenic Air Force F-4E AUP jets. The HAF deployed its Phantoms belonging ot the 339 Mira to Decimomannu.

The Greek F-4E AUP Phantoms from 339 Mira took part in VG17 few days before the squadron was disbanded after 65 years.

The other supporting assets mainly operated from their homebases: the G550 CAEW (Conformal Airborne Early Warning) aircraft of the 14° Stormo flew from Pratica di Mare, the KC-767 Tanker of the 14° and the KC-130J of the 46th Air Brigade, engaged in multiple daily sorties, operated respectively from Pratica di Mare and Pisa; the MQ-9 Predator B of the 32° Stormo, from Amendola.

Italian Tonka gets fuel from the hose of a KC-767. The Italian Air Force committed both the KC-767 and the KC-130J to support the exercise.

Dealing with Amendola, it’s worth mentioning that two F-35A Lightning II of the 13° Gruppo supported Capo Teulada’s amphibious landing on Oct. 26 (as proved by one of the videos published by the Italian MoD on the website dedicated to the JS17 exercise), before landing, for the very first time, at Decimomannu airbase.

The F-35A 5th gen. combat aircraft of the 13° Gruppo took part in a joint exercise for the very first time.

Among the most interesting things we have noticed during VG17, it’s worth a mention the fact that the F-2000s flew some sorties carrying the Litening targeting pod on the centerline pylon, most probably to support CAS missions, meaning that they were also tasked with Swing Role missions. In fact, a secondary air-to-surface capability of the the ItAF Typhoon fleet was developed back in 2015 and validated in 2016 with the participation in Red Flag 16-2 with three Tranche 2 aircraft that embedded the P1E(B) upgrades and were loaded with the latest SRP (Software Release Package) that allowed the use of GBU-16 Paveway II LGBs (Laser Guided Bombs).

A Tornado refuels while four Typhoons wait their turn on the tanker’s left wing.

VG17 featured some other interesting “firsts”: besides the G550 CAEW, at its first joint exercise [actually the aircraft has already taken part in a real operation, to secure the G7 summit in Taormina back in May 2017], the drills saw the operational debut of the T-346’s HMD (Helmet Mounted Display) system. The helmet system projects essential symbology and aiming parameters onto the visor, enhancing the pilot’s situational awareness and providing head-out control of aircraft targeting systems and sensors. The HMD coupled to its stunning performance and ability to simulate the flight characteristics of other aircraft and to replicate a wide array of sensors and weapons as if these were actually installed on the aircraft made the T-346, playing the Aggressor role, an even more realistic “Bandit” in the aerial engagements of VG17.

T-346s from the 212° Gruppo performed the Aggressors role as part of the OPFOR (Opposing Forces).

All the images in this post were taken by The Aviationist’s photographers Alessandro Fucito and Giovanni Maduli.

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Six U.S. Air Force F-35As have arrived at Mountain Home AFB for the type’s first simulated deployment

First simulated deployment for the U.S. Air Force F-35A Lightning IIs.

Taken on Feb. 8, 2016 the following pictures feature six F-35A Lightning IIs belonging to the 31st Test and Evaluation Squadron (TES) from Edwards Air Force Base, California, arriving at Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho, for the fifth generation aircraft’s first simulated deployment test, that is expected to last about a month.

Three key initial operational capability mission sets will be tested by the 31st TES : suppression of enemy air defenses, close air support and air interdiction.

F-35As deployment

This test is conducted to assess the deployment capability of an F-35A squadron and its outcome will set the benchmark capability for the Air Force to declare F-35A IOC (initial operational capability) scheduled for this fall.

Noteworthy Mountain Home AFB has been selected to host the simulated deployment because it can provide a secure environment with ranges to employ fourth-generation aircraft as well: in fact during their stay in Idaho the six F-35As will integrate with F-15E Strike Eagles belonging to the 366th Fighter Wing from Mountain Home Air Force Base and A-10 Thunderbolt IIs belonging to the 124th Fighter Wing from Gowen Field, Idaho.

Mountain Home F-35As

Image credit: Senior Airman Jeremy L. Mosier and Tech. Sgt. Samuel Morse / U.S. Air Force