Tag Archives: Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II

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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Two former Skunk Works members seem to know why the F-35 program is a mess

Among the contents of the November 2012 issue of Classic Aircraft (a magazine that since Jan. 2013 has been incorporated into its sister magazine Aviation News), an interesting article written by Angus Batey gives an exclusive overview about the birth of the legendary Lockheed’s Skunk Works division.

The father of this facility was Clarence L. “Kelly” Johnson, one of the best aircraft designer in the aviation history.

He created the Skunk Works with the aim to develop some of the most revolutionary military aircraft following a concept: a project would have turned into a great aircraft if only few qualified people had worked on it.

Thanks to this rule the Skunk Works division designed airplanes which represented a giant leap for their times such as the F-104, the U-2, the Blackbird family or the F-117A stealth fighter jet.

In Batey’s article some of the people who contributed to create these classified concepts and former Skunk Works members also explain which are the main differences between the rules followed by Lockheed during the development of the above mentioned aircraft and the rules followed by Lockheed during F-22 and F-35 development: these differences may be among the reasons which led to the problems of the last two US (multirole) fighter jets.

F-35

According to Batey, Alan Brown, a British guy who joined Lockheed in 1960 before joining the Skunk Works in 1975 and being involved in the Have Blue and F-117 programs, had “a simple algebraic formula”:

[…] “the time it takes to go from initial design to operational use by the Air Force is directly proportional to the size of the Air Force oversight committee that’s guiding the airplane design. For the F-117, the Air Force team was a colonel and six other experts-the corresponding team on the F-22 was 130. And if you ratio 130 over seven, you’ll get just about the ratio of the time it took from starting the airframes to getting them in service,” Brown explained.

Bob Murphy, who joined the Skunk Works in 1954, managed flight-test on the U-2 and became deputy director of operations, illustrated the troubles faced by the Joint Strike Fighter to Batey.

“Because of bureaucracy”, […] “once you get all these organizations involved-all the different Air Force bases across the country, and every contractor that makes a screw for the airplane-when they have meetings, everybody comes to every meeting, and nothing ever gets settled. It’s crazy! If you’ve got 300 people in a meeting, what the hell do you solve? Nothing,” Murphy stated.

But F-35’s cost overruns and slippage were are also due to the philosophy which brought to the three different F-35 versions, as explained again by Brown:

“In the mid-1960s, there was a proposal by the Secretary of Defense to combine the F-14 and F-15 programs, so we did some analysis”, […] “the Air Force wanted 200 F-15s and the Navy wanted 200 F-14s.

If you designed an airplane for each individual service to do what they wanted, each airplane would weight about 40,000lb, but if you combined them so one airplane could do the job that was needed for each service, the weight suddenly went up to about 70,000lb-and back then it was generally accepted that airplanes cost about a thousand dollars per pound of weight.

The cost savings on producing 400 of one airplane rather than 200 of two was about 10 percent, so it was clearly much more cost-effective to have two separate airplanes doing their own job best.

So how we manage, on the F-35, to suddenly reverse that idea is not clear to me.”

It’s a shame that the experience made on some of the most advanced and adveniristic projects ever made in aviation history did not guide LM and the U.S. Air Force and Navy through the development of the Lightning II.

David Cenciotti has contributed to this article.

F-35B NVG

Image credit: Lockheed Martin

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First Joint Strike Missile (JSM) multi-role missile fitted to an F-35

Unveiled on Nov. 29, 2012, the first Joint Strike Missile (JSM) developed for the F-35 by the Norwegian company Kongsberg and the Norwegian Ministry of Defence, was fitted to a test Joint Strike Fighter at Lockheed Martin facility at Ft Worth, Texas, on Feb. 27, 2013.

Even if it can be carried on the external wing pylon (as the fit check proved) the new missile, developed in partnership with the Norwegian Ministry of Defence, and in close cooperation with the Norwegian Defence Research Establishment, is the only powered anti-ship missile that will fit inside the F-35’s weapons bays.

In fact, even if it can be useful to carry four such missiles (2 in the internal bays, 2 on the external pylons) an F-35 carrying the JSM on the underwing pylons would lose much of its stealthiness.

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.

Image credit: Lockheed Martin

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F-35 makes precautionary landing in Texas on its way to Nellis Air Force Base

According to Reuters, one of two F-35 stealth fighters one their way to Nellis Air Force Base, where the first two aircraft were taken on charge by the 422nd Test and Evaluation Squadron last week, was forced to perform an unscheduled landing in Lubbock, Texas, on Mar. 11, 2013.

The Joint Strike Fighter was flying from Lockheed Martin facility in Forth Worth, to the Nevada airbase near Las Vegas, when a caution warning light came on, requiring the pilot to divert and land at the nearest airfield.

The F-35A Conventional Take Off and Landing (CTOL), landed safely, while the second plane continued as planned to its destination.

Lockheed experts were immediately dispatched to the Texan airport, located about 300 miles  from Dallas, to assess the situation and identify the cause of the caution light.

Although emergency landings are quite usual in military aviation (or, at least, not rare), the fact that a costly F-35 was forced to land because of a possible failure in one of its systems, does not necessarily mean the aircraft is unsafe or a total waste of money (as some, many, believe).

Still, the mishap is the latest in a series of negative news regarding the Pentagon’s most expensive warplane (grounded twice this year for engine problems) and for this reason, even what can be considered a normal incident, makes the news.

F-35 Lightning II Arrival

Image credit: U.S. Air Force

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