Tag Archives: Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II

In 1986 U.S. President Ronald Reagan offered Britain the F-117 stealth jet

Recently declassified documents show that U.S. President Ronald Reagan offered UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher access to the American stealth technology.

Recently declassified documents from the British National Archives have exposed something interesting: back in 1986, the then President of the United States Ronald Reagan offered British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher a chance for transatlantic cooperation on Stealth technology.

As reported by the Guardian, under the name “Project Moonflower,” the former POTUS offered Downing Street a briefing on the Black Project and the opportunity for the U.S. and the UK to work together on it.

“Dear Margaret,” a 1986 US telegram obtained by the Guardian recorded, “I am delighted to hear that you will be able to see Cap [Casapar Weinberger, the US defence secretary] to discuss the special program I wrote you about … I look forward to receiving your reaction. Sincerely, Ron.”

But the UK turned down the chance to work with the U.S. stealth technology and acquire F-117 stealth jets, that had made their first flight in 1981 and would continue to secretly operate until they were revealed to the public in 1988, a couple of years before becoming famous during Desert Storm in Iraq.

Indeed, an MoD letter in December 1986 to Charles Powell, the prime minister’s foreign affairs adviser, informed him that “Mr Weinberger has offered us a chance to purchase the current US aircraft but we have replied that we would not wish to actually buy hardware while the programme remains strictly black [secret].

After the first offer was rejected a modified version of the baseline F-117 was reportedly offered to the UK’s Royal Air Force in 1995.

Believed to be dubbed F-117C, the British variant, was planned to be equipped with “B-2 type intakes, a F-22 type clear-view canopy, British avionics, F414 or EJ200 engines, plus a number of BAE structural components or sub-assemblies.

The aircraft, also referred to as the F-117A+ or F-117B (B for “British”) was being offered as a replacement for the Tornado GR4 and it is believed that this was the reason why some RAF pilots eventually flew the Nighthawk stealth jet before it was (somehow) retired in 2008.

Even though the stealth technology that made the F-117 invisible to radars was cutting edge back in the mid-80s, the Tornado GR4 has been a pretty successful weapon system that the Royal Air Force has extensively used in combat in all the conflicts and crisis support operations it has taken part in the last 20 years.

Meanwhile the first UK’s stealth has eventually arrived in the form of a much controversial Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II.

 

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Here are the photographs of the first “operational” F-35A outside of the US landing in Italy

On Monday, Italy became the first country to operate the F-35 outside of the U.S. when two aircraft landed at the first F-35 base in Europe. Here are the first photographs.

As reported yesterday, on Dec. 12, the 13° Gruppo (Squadron) of the 32° Stormo (Wing) of the Aeronautica Militare (Italian Air Force, ItAF) received its first two F-35A Lightning II at Amendola airbase, in southeastern Italy, becoming the very first service to take delivery of the 5th generation stealth jet outside of the U.S.

The two aircraft, that were flown to Amendola by two ItAF pilots, will now be involved in the flying activities required to achieve the IOC (Initial Operational Capability) with the type.

Here are the photographs showing the first two F-35s arriving at Amendola (the first European airbase to receive the JSF) on Monday.

Image credit: Troupe Azzura, ItAF

 

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Italy has become the first country to operate the F-35 outside of the U.S.

Actually, the Italian (not the Israeli) Air Force has been the first service to take delivery of the first operational F-35s outside the United States.

On Dec. 12, whilst several Israeli and international media outlets focused on the delivery of the first F-35I “Adir” to Nevatim airbase (delayed by some 6 hours because of fog) highlighting how Israel had just become “the first country after the US” to get the new plane, far from the spotlight, the 13° Gruppo (Squadron) of the 32° Stormo (Wing) of the Aeronautica Militare (Italian Air Force, ItAF) received its first two F-35A Lightning II, becoming the very first country to take delivery of the 5th generation stealth jet outside of the U.S.

Noteworthy, the delivery flight was carried out by two Italian military pilots (the Israeli planes were flown by Lockheed Martin pilots) who flew their two JSFs (Joint Strike Fighters) to Amendola, where the aircraft landed in the early afternoon on Monday.

Indeed, whereas the arrival of the first Israeli or Dutch F-35s got a significant media coverage (with constant updates, live streaming on social media, etc.), the Italian Air Force has kept a very “low profile” about its achievements with the F-35 so far.

However, Italy has made some significant work on the Lightning II: on Dec. 3, 2015, the ItAF welcomed the first F-35 at the Final Assembly and Check Out (FACO) facility at Cameri, in northwestern Italy. That aircraft was also the first assembled and delivered outside the U.S.

Then, 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. To prepare for the 7-hour transoceanic flight the Italian Air Force conducted tanker trials in the U.S. (in July 2015) with its KC-767A, that became the first tanker not operated by the U.S. Air Force to undergo refueling certification trials with an F-35.

Three Italian F-35s are currently deployed at Luke’s multinational F-35 pilot training centre.

And, as explained mentioned, on Dec. 12, the first two aircraft (reportedly AL-5 and AL-6) arrived at their operational base in southeastern Italy.

The first ItAF F-35 during the type’s first transatlantic crossing earlier this year (AM)

The F-35 is for sure the most famous (and controversial) defense program in Italy.

For the moment, Rome’s plan is to procure 90 F-35 to replace the ItAF’s ageing AMX and Tornado and the Italian Navy’s AV-8B+ Harrier jump jets.

 

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U.S. F-22 Raptor stealth jets to fly out of northern Australia amid South China Sea tensions

Starting in 2017, Australia will host U.S. military aircraft, including F-22 Raptors, to maintain a “credible combat power” in the region and send a convincing message to potential aggressors.

The Royal Australian Air Force will start joint training with U.S. F-22 Raptor aircraft over Australian territory next year.

This is one of the effects of the agreement signed by Adm. Harry Harris, Commander of the U.S. Pacific Command, and Australian defense head Air Chief Marshal Mark Binskin.

Speaking at the Lowy Institute in Sydney, Harris said that the U.S. and Australia “are exploring greater integration of fifth generation fighter deployments to Australia and plan to see significant activities in 2017.”

The RAAF is acquiring knowledge on 5th gen. aircraft thanks to the involvement in the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II program, but the Joint Strike Fighter won’t enter active service with the Royal Australian Air Force until next decade: the first F-35A will arrive in Australia in 2018 and the first squadron, No 3 Squadron, will be operational in 2021.  All 72 aircraft are expected to be fully operational by 2023.

Since the F-22 is the only fifth generation fighter already in service in good numbers, the U.S. Air Force has a plan “to bring down some F-22s to work with Australia to demonstrate the airplane and some of the unique maintenance and other aspects of fifth generation airframes,” Harris said.

Although Raptors have already visited Australia in the past to attend airshows, the announced deployment of the world’s most advanced multi-role aircraft in the north of the country would also have a deterrence purpose: according to Harris, maintaining a “credible combat power” in the region will send a convincing message to potential aggressors.

Like China, whose island-building in the South China Sea poses a threat to the freedom of navigation and overflight.

The presence of F-22s in northern Australia follows similar deployments to Japan: the USAF has started rotating fighters to Pacific Command bases in March 2004 “to maintain a prudent deterrent against threats to regional security and stability” and in January 2016 a dozen Raptors were deployed to Yokota, near Tokyo, to “promote” stability following North Korea’s nuclear test.

The deployment of a handful of stealth jets some 2,000 nautical miles from the South China Sea is rather symbolic unless it is considered as the part of a wider military build-up around the troubled waters of the Indo-Asia-Pacific theater.

On Aug. 9, 2016 three B-2 Spirit bombers with the 509th Bomb Wing, have deployed to Andersen Air Force Base, in Guam, to conduct extended deterrence operations in the region. B-1B Lancers (“Bones” in accordance with the nickname used by their aircrews) have also been deployed to Guam to support the U.S. Pacific Command’s (USPACOM) Continuous Bomber Presence mission

U.S. Navy aircraft carriers regularly conduct dual carrier strike group operations in the Western Pacific and sometimes also in the South China Sea, East China Sea and Philippine Sea. Last June, two nuclear-powered flattops operated simultaneously in the area, working also alongside two U.S. Air Force B-52 Stratofortress (bombers launched from Andersen Air Force Base, Guam in a maritime attack training sortie. In the same period, Washington also deployed to the Philippines the first temporary detachment of Navy EA-18G Growlers with the ability to perform both electronic escort missions on U.S. ships and spyplanes frequently shadowed by Chinese spyplanes or intelligence gathering ships and Electronic Attack missions against Chinese radars on the disputed islands.

Image credit: U.S. Air Force

 

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Arrival of the first F-35A “Adir” in Israel delayed by heavy fog at departure airfield

Heavy fog forced the F-35 to the ground, delaying the arrival of the first “Adir” jets in Israel. Not a good start, on the very same day Trump slammed the program’s cost for being “out of control.”

The arrival of the first two F-35I “Adir” stealth jets in Israel was delayed because of heavy fog at Cameri airbase, the final stopover of the Lightning II aircraft on their way to Nevatim airbase, on Dec. 12.

The aircraft were initially scheduled to arrive in Israel at around 2.00PM LT but the aircraft could not depart from the Italian airbase experiencing bad weather conditions with a horizontal visibility between 250 and 700 m, with clouds at 200 feet, well below the IFR minimums for the ferry flight.

Although some immediately blamed the F-35 for the delay, it must be said that the same wx (weather) would have grounded any other modern warplane on delivery or not involved in an actual combat mission.

An unlucky start for the “Adir” that caused the ceremony, to be attended by U.S. Defense Secretary Ashotn Carter, to be delayed by about 5.5 hours.

As if the delay was not enough, on the very same day, U.S. president-elect Donald Trump said on Twitter that the F-35 cost is out of control, and that he would save billions on that once he takes office on Jan. 20, 2017.

As a consequence of the tweet, Lockheed Martin’s stock fell by as much as 3% and was down 2.55% as of 8:45 a.m. ET according to Business Insider.

The “attack” on the F-35 comes just one week after Trump tweeted on the costs for the replacement Air Force One.

H/T Avi Scharf for providing updates on the Adir delivery

 

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