Tag Archives: Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II

[Composite Image] F-35A AF-1 completing a 360-degree roll with external load

Composite image, built from 17 photos of the F-35 doing an aileron roll.

The maneuver itself is far from being special. It’s a standard 360-degree roll, that the F-35A AF-1 completes with external weapons load (4 x GBU-12s and 2 AIM-9Xs).

Still, the composite image is quite interesting as it shows the whole maneuver in a singole composite photo, which shows the Joint Strike Fighter lost some altitude during the roll.

Image credit: Matthew Short via Lockheed Martin/Code One

 

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“If we don’t keep F-22 Raptor viable, the F-35 fleet will be irrelevant” Air Combat Command says

The present and future of the F-35, A-10 and other platforms in the vision of the U.S. Air Force Air Command Command Chief.

In an interesting, open and somehow surprising interview given to Air Force Times, Chief of U.S. Air Force Air Combat Command Gen. Michael Hostage, explained the hard choices made by the Air Force as a consequence of the budget cuts and highlighted the position of the service for what concerns the F-35.

First of all, forget any chance the A-10 will survive. According to Hostage, one of the few ways to save some money cut from the budget is to retire an entire weapon system. And, even though the Warthog “can still get the job done”, the plane does not seem to be the weapon of choice in future conflicts, in which “the A-10 is totally useless“.
Obviously, a less drastic solution, as keeping half of the A-10 fleet in active service, is not viable as it would still require much of the costly support infrastructures the whole fleet need.

Another problem is in the ISR (Intelligence Surveillance Reconnaissance) domain. Politics urge the Air Force to keep buying Global Hawks, hence, given the current budget picture, the Air Force can’t afford both the U-2 Dragon Lady and the Global Hawk. That’s why the ACC Commander “will likely have to give up the U-2” and spend much money to try to get the large Northrop Grumman drone do the same things the U-2 has done for decades.

Dealing with the Joint Strike Fighter, Hostage says he is “going to fight to the death to protect the F-35” since the only way to keep up with the adversaries, which “are building fleets that will overmatch our legacy fleet”, is by employing a sufficient fleet of 1,763 (“not one less”) F-35s. You can update and upgrade the F-15 and F-16 fleets, but they would still become obsolete in the next decade.

But, the F-22 Raptor will have to support the F-35. And here comes another problem. When the Raptor was produced it was flying “with computers that were already so out of date you would not find them in a kid’s game console in somebody’s home gaming system.” Still, the U.S. Air Force was forced to use the stealth fighter plane as it was, because that was the way the spec was written. But now, the F-22 must be upgraded through a costly service life extension plan and modernisation program because, “If I do not keep that F-22 fleet viable, the F-35 fleet frankly will be irrelevant. The F-35 is not built as an air superiority platform. It needs the F-22,” says Hostage to Air Force Times.

Something that seem to confirm what we have written some time ago….

Image credit: Lockheed Martin

 

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“Dambusters” Squadron’s final mission. Will reform and get F-35B in 2018.

RAF’s legendary Squadron disbanded 71 years after famous raid over Germany. Will reform and get F-35s in a few years.

Royal Air Force’s 617 Squadron known as the “Dambusters”, from the daring night missions against the Mohne, Eder and Sorpe dams, pivotal to Hitler’s industrial heartland in the Ruhr Valley, back in 1943, completed their last operational mission (over Afghanistan) with the Tornado GR4.

It will be a temporary disbandment though: the unit will reform in 2018, with both Royal Air Force and Navy personnel and it will be equipped with the F-35B Lightning II joint strike fighter.

This last flight was a Close Air Support (CAS) mission, which aimed at helping the coalition troops and was made by Squadron Leader, Mark Jackson.

The Dambuster played recce and CAS roles during their stay in Afghanistan, tasks that were handed over to No II (Army Co-operation) Squadron from RAF Marham.

The statistics of Dambusters’ last tour in  Afghanistan are astounding: the Squadron accumulated 188 missions and logged more than 1500 flying hours.

In the article published on the RAF website Mark Jackson said:

As I stepped down from the aircraft for the last time, my emotions were mixed. Tinged with sadness is an overwhelming sense of achievement for what the Squadron have accomplished. I am sure that the original Dambusters felt a similar poignancy at the end of their iconic raid and would echo how very proud I am of those that serve today.

One of a few interesting tasks the Dambusters performed was the show of force; 14 ones were conducted on their stay in Afghanistan.

What is it? It is basically flying fast and low to deter enemy forces from attacking coalition ground troops. In this way the Squadron paid tribute to its early days, when low level flying was needed to sneak close to the German dams.

Jackson reminisces, that it is nothing compared to the raids back in 1943, since then, the bomber pilots “came back from their mission pulling out bits of trees and twigs from the aircraft, they were literally skimming the trees to get there.”

The Dambusters are to be officially disbanded in March, but then there is a plan to reform the unit as the the RAF’s first Lightning II Squadron in 2018, provided all the problems with the American STOVL (Short Take Off Veritical Landing) stealth jet will be solved by then.

In this way the legacy will be maintained. Wing Commander Arthurton is waiting for the Dambusters to come back, as he says: “the spirit and ethos of this famous Squadron will no doubt endure as it embarks on the next chapter of its illustrious history.”

Written with David Cenciotti

617 Sqn final flight

Image Credit: Crown Copyright

 

 

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Not very stealthy: first image of F-35C carrying full load of weapons (externally)

On Jan. 13, RAF Squadron Ldr. Andy Edgell flew first F-35C, the U.S. Navy’s carrier variant of the Joint Strike Fighter, with external GBU-12s, AIM-9Xs air-to-air missiles and the centerline gun pod.

Obviously, a radar-evading plane loses some of its stealthiness with such an external payload…

Image credit: Andy Wolfe via Lockheed Martin

 

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Dutch Government says their F-35 fighter jets could carry nuclear weapons

In September 2013, the Dutch Government announced the decision to buy 37 F-35 Joint Strike Fighter jets to replace the F-16s of the Royal Netherlands Air Force.

The first Dutch pilot, Maj.  Laurens J.W. Vijge flew for the first time in the F-35A Lightning II on Dec. 18, making the Netherlands the second partner country to fly the fifth-generation plane after the UK.

Whereas the two aircraft currently stationed at Eglin Air Force Base, where Dutch planes and personnel were incorporated into the U.S. Air Force’s 58th Fighter Squadron at the 33rd Fighter Wing that provides training for both U.S. and allied countries.

On Jan. 14, the news that the F-35 could carry nuclear weapons, made the news after some media outlets reported  that the Minister of Defense has recently affirmed that, as a NATO member, the Netherlands could be called to perform a nuclear task.

Indeed, there are about 20 U.S. nuclear bombs stored in the Netherlands: such bombs could be carried by RNlAF F-16s in case of war. However, a motion in the Dutch parliament urged the government to prevent the Fighting Falcon’s successor to carry nukes.

But the Ministry of Defense responded that the nuclear task is foreseen by the North Atlantic treaty and, as a NATO commitment, it can’t be unilaterally ended.

By the way, F-35 can’t carry B-61s as of yet but they will probably get such a capability when the rest of the payload is tested and qualified for use with the JSF.

Image credit: U.S. Air Force

 

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