Tag Archives: Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II

Italy’s F-35 stealth fighter purchase review signals more cuts ahead.

Even if the Italian Air Force considers it “essential” for the future of the service in the next 20 years, the F-35 program will be reviewed for 6 months, as a consequence of the lower-house motion supported by the Letta cabinet presented on Jun. 26, 2013.

Based on the new motion, Italy’s participation in the program will not be cancelled, but parliament will have to approve any further stage of the 5th generation multi-role fighter jet purchase.

The new motion, passed 381 to 149 votes, calls on the government to push for more European Union defense projects integration to reduce military spending and defeated an opposition motion in favor of quitting the program.

On Feb. 15, 2012 former Italian Minister of Defense announced Italy’s plan to purchase 90 F-35s out of the original 131.

41 aircraft were be scrapped leaving the Italian Air Force and Navy with less than F-35 in the A and B version to replace about 300 current aircraft, including the Air Force’s Tornado and AMX, and the Navy’s AV-8B+ Harrier II on board the Cavour aircraft carrier, both involved in the Air War in Libya.

Italy plans to spend about 12 billion Euro on the aircraft over 45 years, starting in 2015. Considered the mounting pressure around the program, both within the coalition party and the opposition, and the need for the government to address the huge public debt and limit the budget deficit, a further reduction in the amount of planes that will be eventually procured seems to be not only likely but inevitable.

F-35B and C

Image credit: Lockheed Martin

Delays and cost overruns have raised the projected unit price from 75 million to 133 million USD, even if, in February 2012, Italian head of the agency that is responsible for the procurement of new armaments said that the unit price will be around 70 million each (Lockheed Martin estimated 65M USD for the F-35A and about 73M USD for the F-35B), less than the 79 million USD currently paid for the Eurofighter Typhoon and much less of the 121 million USD per aircraft anticipated in 2011.

Unit price depends also on the foreign sales. U.S. have commitments from allies to buy as many as 500 jets. Last year, The Economist warned that the program is in danger of slipping into the “death spiral” where increasing unit costs would lead to cuts in number of ordered plane, leading to further costs that would boost order cuts.

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[Photo] F-35 performs first AIM-120 missile launch

On Jun. 5, an F-35A conventional takeoff and landing (CTOL) aircraft completed the first in-flight missile launch of an AIM-120 C5 AAVI (AMRAAM Air Vehicle Instrumented) over the Point Mugu Sea Test Range.

According to the U.S. Air Force’s statement: “It was the first launch where the F-35 and AIM-120 demonstrated a successful launch-to-eject communications sequence and fired the rocket motor after launch — paving the way for targeted launches in support of the Block 2B fleet release capability later this year.”

F-35 first AIM-120

Image credit: Lockheed Martin

The first AIM-120 launch is just the last of a series of events that have marked the development of the F-35 in the last years, which included the beginning of pilot training at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., the delivery of the first operational test aircraft to Edwards, Nellis Air Force Base, the induction of the world’s first JSF operational squadron at Yuma, the first operational aerial refueling, the (unimpressive) high angle of attack testing, a series of engine problems, the beginning of the “maneuverability dispute.”

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To be honest, this F-35 fighter jet High-AOA testing video has nothing to be impressed of

I’ve seen the video released yesterday by Lockheed Martin at least a couple of time. Still, I struggle to find something to be impressed of.

The video was taken during a series of F-35A high angle of attack (AOA) testing that was recently completed.

According to LM: “The testing accomplished high AOA beyond both the positive and negative maximum command limits, including intentionally putting the aircraft out of control in several configurations. This included initially flying in the stealth clean wing configuration. It was followed by testing with external air-to-air pylons and missiles and then with open weapon bay doors.  The F-35A began edge-of-the-envelope high AOA testing in the Fall 2012.  For all testing, recovery from out of control flight has been 100 percent successful without the use of the spin recovery chute, which is carried to maximize safety.”

Some media outlets that received the release published interesting reviews about what they defined “shocking” or “most awesome” footage ever seen, allegedly showing the aircraft’s superior maneuverability.

AF-4 Flight 148 Hi AOA

Image: U.S. Air Force

Few weeks ago, Bill Flynn, Lockheed test pilot responsible for flight envelope expansion activities for the F-35, told Flight Global that all three variants of the Joint Strike Fighter will have better kinematic performance than any fourth-generation fighter plane with combat payload, including the Eurofighter Typhoon and the Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet.

Such claims were strongly disputed by a Eurofighter Typhoon industry test pilot, who debunked all Flynn’s “theories” about the alleged superior F-35 performance.

The F-35 maneuverability shown in the video seems far to be special. Have you ever seen what a Su-27, a Mig-29 a Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor, with the latter highly facilitated by thrust vectoring engines, can do?

Even the SAAB Draken was capable to perform a “Cobra” some 40 years ago

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Photo shows F-35A fitted with two externally mounted Joint Strike Missiles

Last week the Norwegian Crown Prince visited Lockheed Martin’s Ft Worth facility as part of an effort to promote Norwegian industry within the JSF-program.

As part of the visit, LM fitted an F-35A with two externally mounted development models of the Joint Strike Missile.

F-35 RNoAF

Image credit: Norwegian MoD

Unveiled on Nov. 29, 2012, the Joint Strike Missile (JSM) developed for the F-35 by the Norwegian company Kongsberg and the Norwegian Ministry of Defence, is the only powered anti-ship missile that can fit inside the F-35’s weapons bays.

Actually, even if carrying the missiles on the underwing pylons would cost the JSF its stealthiness, the F-35 can carry up to six (2 in the internal bays, 4 on the external pylons) JSMs; previously, only 2+2 were believed to be theoretically carried by the 5th generation multirole radar evading plane,

Derived from the Naval Strike Missile (NSM), the anti-ship weapon, featuring long range, low radar cross section and high maneuverability, speed and accuracy, will undergo a Critical Design Review in summer 2013: the CDR will confirm whether the design is mature enough to be able to continue the integration on the F-35.

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Upgraded F-35 Block 2A Joint Strike Fighters delivered to the U.S. Air Force. Still much to do, though.

The brand new Joint Strike Fighters reached the 58th Fighter Squadron on May 6, 2013. The difference between the mentioned plane and the older ones is the fact that it already incorporates the Block 2A avionics software and will start flying in 2-3 weeks.

F-35 close up

Image Credit: Lockheed Martin

26 F-35As (including 2 spares) are going to be a part of the Squadron in Eglin by the beginning of 2014. Some of them will support a training squadron that will be stationed at Luke AFB and is scheduled to receive its first JSFs in January 2014.

The new software introduces interesting capabilities.

First of all, it allows the pilot to use all six thermal imaging cameras of the EO-DAS AN/AAQ-37 optical set.

The purpose of the device is to detect and track the enemy aircraft and provide early warning messages about the launched missiles.

Nevertheless it is not integrated with the on-helmet-sight yet even if it allows displaying weather info.

In spite of the latest upgrade, the F-35A is still restricted. It can’t conduct IMC flights, night flights, aerobatics (have you ever seen JSF on an Air Show?!) and formation take-offs and landings. Even if it is in a post-prototype stage of development the F-35 is still not a fully capable fighters, and it evokes mixed feelings among the Lockheed Martin employees, as The Aviationist reported earlier.

However, the Block 2A software extends the F-35’s capabilities, because it lets the pilot simulate the launch of AIM-120 missiles. Still, the g-limit for the airframe is 5,5 G that is quite ridiculous, taking into account the objectives the JSF is designed to face. Hopefully the g-limit will be lifted soon.

The training ground attack missions are practically the only thing JSF feels good at, as it allows for dropping laser guided GBU-12‘s and GBU-31 JDAMs.

Image Credit: USAF

The 58th Fighter Squadron already operates 9 F-35A Block 1B, which were used to train USAF instructors and test pilots. The ultimate number of trained pilots is to reach 45.

The initial problems with the Lockheed-Martin fighter jet are not an issue for some of the customers. Just recently Israel has transferred $20,1 million for the jets that they are going to buy. The money is to fund additional 2 planes to the 6 already existing in the order. They are to be a part of LRIP – Low Rate Initial Production.

Out of the remaining planes of LRIP VIII  (45 examples) 29 are to stay in the US (19 F-35A’s – for USAF and 6 VTOL F-35B’s for the Marine Corps and 4 F-35C’s for US Navy). The remaining 19 planes are to be delivered to the customers as follows: 4 F-35B’s for UK, 2 F-35A for Norway, 4 F-35A for Japan and two abovementioned examples for Israel.

Jacek Siminski for The Aviationist

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