Tag Archives: Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II

Photo: U.S. Navy Carrier Variant F-35C's first formation flight

On Apr. 18, two F-35C Lightning II carrier variant aircraft launched together from Naval Air Station Patuxent River and conducted formation flying for more than one hour.

The mission flown by the two aircraft, known as CF-1 and CF-2, and piloted by Navy Cdr. Eric Buus and Marine Corps Lt. Col. Matt Taylor, respectively, aimed to test flying qualities of the aircraft while taking off, landing and flying in formation.

Image credit: Lockheed Martin

UK to reverse decision on F-35 version. Two aircraft carriers and 72 retired Harriers later.

After the first of the UK’s F-35s took to the air on Apr. 13, it would seem that British Prime Minister David Cameron has been persuaded into going back with the STOVL (Short Take Off Vertical Landing) version and reverse his earlier decision to reverse order from the F-35B the F-35C CV (Carrier Variant).

The British newspaper The Daily Mail has reported that Cameron has taken on board military advice and gone with the B version that was controversially axed in 2010 as the British government, following a Strategic Defence and Security Review, negotiated a deal to get the JSF that will equip the American flattops instead of that destined for the U.S. Marine Corps.

Cameron made the U-turn after hearing that the changes needed by the two carriers would amount to £1.8 billion and delay the whole project by 7 years.

The Daily Mail quoted a Downing street official as saying: “The major problem with the conventional aircraft [the CV variant] is that we would be without carrier capability for far too long”.

Obviously, such uncertainity gives us more ammunition to criticise the initial decision to scrap the two small aircraft carriers HMS Ark Royal and HMS Invincible (leaving the UK with no maritime strike capability for a decade or more), the subsequent retirement of the Harrier “Jump Jet” and last year’s sale of the RAF’s 72 Harrier jets to the USMC for a mere 180 million USD.

The (final?) decision is expected to be signed off officially within the next few weeks.

In the meanwhile Lockheed Martin has released a video of the UK’s F-35B inaugural flight.

The one in the video should be UK future’s F-35 version. Until next U-turn on future Britain’s aircraft carrier and naval aviation.

Richard Clements for TheAviationist.com

Non-US F-35 takes to the skies: first UK's Joint Strike Fighter inaugural flight (with some nice low-visibility markings)

Lockheed Martin’s Fort Worth facility has been deafened by the first non-U.S customers F-35 taking to the skies for the first time.

BK1, the UK’s first of three development aircraft which rolled off the production line during November 2011 and will fly with the RAF serial ZM135, made its inaugural test flight on Apr. 13 with Lockheed’s pilot Bill Gigliotti at the controls.

The second non-U.S F-35 destined for The Netherlands, has just rolled off the line and will be second in line to take to the air.

Image credit: Lockheed Martin

The “B” model flight announces a milestone in the F-35 story, but also the beginning of the UK’s involvement which is proving to be a story in itself.

Originally, the first three test planes for the UK had to be “B” ones in the STOVL (short take off vertical landing) version, but in 2010 as consequence of the Defence Spending Review, decided to go with the C model with the arrestor hook. Following the decision, the UK worked out a deal with the US to swap BK3 (the third plane) to a C model (CK-1).

However after looking more closely at how much the change to the C model (that in the meanwhile experienced some problems with its arrestor hook to such an extent a new one had to be re-designed) will cost over the lifetime of the carriers the UK is currently building, the Ministry of Defense is thinking about reverting to the B model once again.

The two Queen Elizabeth Class Carriers (HMS Queen Elizabeth & HMS Prince of Wales) were originally designed with the STOVL version of the F-35 in mind, therefore were not designed with a cat and trap launch and recovery system similar to the one used by the American flattops. Hence, the cost of refitting one of the two carriers, only slightly smaller than a Nimitz class supercarrier, with a brand new catapult system, could be greater than anticipated.

Noteworthy, the new British JSF (Joint Strike Fighter) wears interesting low visibility national markings (roundel and tail flash). By the way, it’s not going to be easy to distinguish the UK’s roundel from that of Italy.

Written with The Aviationist’s Editor David Cenciotti

Image credit: Lockheed Martin via Combat Aircraft FB page

[Updated] This could be the look of the Dutch F-35 (including RNlAF Solo Display JSF)

Update Apr. 9, 2012 18.25 GMT

On Apr 1, 2012, the first F-35A CTOL (Conventional Take Off and Landing) for The Netherlands rolled out of the F-35 production facility.

Image credit: Lockheed Martin

Known as AN-1, the aircraft that has just left the Fort Worth final assembly line, will be assigned to Eglin AFB, Florida, for training and operational tests of pilots and maintainers. The Dutch Parliament agreed to procure a second test F-35 to be used in the IOT&E (Initial Operational Test and Evaluation) phase.

Under the current plan, The Netherlands should eventually procure 85 F-35s to replace about 65 RNlAF F-16MLUs.

I’ve asked once again Al Clark to draw a digital mock-up of how the F-35 in Royal Netherlands Air Force (RNlAF) colors could look like based on the current color scheme of the Koninklijke Luchtmacht F-16s.

Based on the above Al Clark’s rendering  Jeroen van Veenendaal has drawn the F-35 of the RNlAF Solo Display team.

Video: F-35A night refueling

Just released by Lockheed Martin, a short but interesting video showing the F-35 performing night refueling from both a U.S. Air Force KC-135 and KC-10.