Tag Archives: Lockheed Martin

First Italian pilot qualified as F-35A Instructor Pilot at Luke Air Force Base

Italian Air Force fighter jock becomes fully-qualified F-35A IP at Luke AFB.

An ItAF combat pilot has recently become the first Italian F-35A IP (Instructor Pilot) with the 56th Fighter Wing at Luke AFB, Arizona.

The Italian IP has got the qualification to train Italian and partner nations pilots on the Joint Strike Fighter through a 6-month syllabus made of two distinct classes respectively called “Transition” and “Intructor Pilot Upgrade” (IPUG).

During Transition the pilots train in various forms of flight: air-to-air combat, air-to-ground missions including SEAD/DEAD tasks (Suppression / Destruction of Enemy Air Defenses). At the end of this stage, the student IPs have gained skills to fly these missions in all-weather conditions.

During the subsequent IPUG class, the students are taught how to teach follow-on pilots to fly and fight in the F-35A. The IPUG course ends with a check ride required to achieve the IP qualification.

The syllabus has become more focused on full combat training last Spring, as the U.S. Air Force prepared to declare the F-35A Lightning II ready for war by the U.S. Air Force with the 34th Fighter Squadron based at Hill AFB in Utah (that eventually achieved the Initial Operational Capability on Aug. 2).

[For a detailed analysis of the IOC milestone, please read our report published here.]

The newly qualified Italian IP will serve in the multinational pilot training center at Luke AFB in Arizona, the world’s premier conventional F-35 training base where, under a pooling arrangement, USA, Australia, Norway and Italy, share IPs and aircraft to train new pilots and instructors within the same standardized framework.

Two Italian F-35As are already part of the “shared pool” at the airbase near Phoenix: the first one, dubbed AL-1 and serialled MM7332, the ItAF’s first F-35, the first JSF built outside the U.S., arrived in the U.S. at the end of the type’s first ever transatlantic flight on Feb. 5, 2016.F-35 ItAF IP 2Image credit: ItAF

The U.S. Air Force F-35A is ready for war. More or less.

On Aug. 2, 2016, the F-35A was declared “combat ready” by Gen. Hawk Carlisle, the commander of Air Combat Command. “A historic and monumental day for the program” according to Lockheed Martin; just an “Initial” capability, according to many others.

About 15 years after Lockheed Martin was awarded with a contract to develop the Joint Strike Fighter, currently known as the F-35 Lightning II, the fifth generation stealth plane, has eventually achieved the IOC (Initial Operational Capability) with the U.S. Air Force.

The first squadron declared to be operational is the 34th Fighter Squadron based at Hill AFB in Utah that was required to have at least 12 airframes ready for deployment operating as a basic close air support and air interdiction and limited SEAD (Suppression of Enemy Air Defenses) platform.

Along with other personnel, maintenance and support requirements the Air Force squadron was also expected to ensure that enough pilots are combat ready, and pass proper examination: as of Jul. 27, 21 pilots and 12 F-35A airframes could be deployed in theater.

Which one?

Well, for the moment, one of those featuring low-lethality threats or where the limited, initial capabilities of the F-35 are considered enough to counter the enemy air defenses: although the JSF has improved a lot through the years, slowly solving the long series of issues the program has experienced since the beginning (some of those still being solved), it is still far from being the aircraft advertised in the beginning.

For sure, as claimed by the head of the Air Combat Command, General Herbert “Hawk” Calisle, its stealth properties, along with the net-centric battlefield capabilities and electronic countermeasures, are the elements which are required in order to face the challenges of the dynamically changing environment of the contemporary battlefield, especially when one considers the enemy weapons systems the F-35 would be required to face.

For the type of threat faced by the U.S. combat planes in the current theaters an IOC F-35 could be more than enough to well perform in Afghanistan, Iraq or Syria, but a “real” air war against an enemy who shoots back would require an aircraft with the ability to conduct Anti-Access Offensive Counter Air,  full SEAD/DEAD (Destruction of Enemy Air Defenses) missions and something more that the U.S. Air Force Lightning II is simply not ready to perform.

So, does this IOC matter? Yes and no.

Surely, after cost overruns, delays, issues of various types, it marks another achievement for the USAF F-35A but, as widely reported for instance by War Is Boring, the initial IOC requirements have been watered down to meet the deadlines.

F-35 IOC timeline

As Defense News notes, the main concern for the Air Force is the 3F software suite of the jet, facing some instability issues, which is expected to be patched up throughout the year 2017, giving the aircraft a capacity to use new armament such as the SDBs (Small-Diameter Bombs), alongside the interface changes.

Also, Lockheed’s Autonomic Logistics Information System, ALIS 2.0.2 – an update of the logistics/maintenance suite – is not expected to be ready by the end of October, even though the Hill AFB personnel stated that the ALIS issue was not a “limiting factor”.

So, in spite of the media hype following the IOC, coherent with the usual PR support that surrounds every F-35 achievement, there is still much room for improvements, development and true operational testing.

The F-35 is now going to take a path of operational deployments, in clearly defined stages. First the Red Flags, and then – inevitably – the jet is going to become a part of the “Theater Security Packages” sent to Europe and Asia.

Some claims also emerged that within 18 months Lightning II would be stationed at RAF Lakenheath (but not permanently – this would happen around 2021, and the jets would rather complement than replace the F-15s stationed there), which would also mean that Mach Loop low-level operations could also be expected within that period, as well as some “hop-like” deployments around the continental Europe.

The prospects of development assume that Hill AFB is going to become a home for two more operational F-35 squadrons, with a view of Burlington Air National Guard Base in Vermont becoming the second operational base — and the first Air National Guard base — to host the F-35.

Burlington is going to use 18 F-35 airframes replacing its F-16 jets. Next up, 24 F-35 jets would be stationed in Alaska, around 2020 – at the Eielson Air Force Base in Fairbanks, as Defense News reports, forming an added capability, not replacing any assets stationed in the northernmost US state.

Three more bases are to be selected soon, with fifth and sixth belonging to the ANG, while the seventh one would be established in one of the bases that currently host F-16s or A-10s: Homestead Air Reserve Base in Florida, Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri, Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Arizona or Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base Fort Worth in Texas.

Summing up, the much troubled and costly F-35 has grown: probably a bit more than the detractors want you to believe and probably less than both LM, the U.S. armed forces and other operators want you to believe. Hence, there is still much work to do, but we’re probably on a good path.

Written with Jacek Siminski

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Cool videos show UK and USMC F-35Bs and USAF F-35As during their first transatlantic flights

The F-35B  aircraft refueled 15 times (in total) during their trip across the Pond. And here’s some cool footage that shows the difference between the A and B variants.

On Jun. 29, the first British F-35B Lightning II, accompanied by two U.S. Marine Corps airframes, flew from MCAS Beaufort, South Carolina, and landed at RAF Fairford airbase, UK, successfully accomplishing the STOVL (Short Take Off Vertical Landing) variant’s first transatlantic flight.

Union Jack

During the journey, the F-35Bs were assisted by two U.S. Air Force KC-10 tankers that refueled the Lightining II 5th Generation aircraft 15 times over the Atlantic (note: this *should* be the total aerial refueling operations, meaning that each stealth plane plugged the In-Flight Refueling probe 5 times into the tanker’s hose).

The following B-roll shows the aircraft during the AAR (Air-to-Air Refueling) ops.

The three STOVL variants were followed by three F-35A of the U.S. Air Force Heritage flight on the following day: this was the first time USAF F-35s crossed the Pond.

Interestingly, AW&ST’s James Drew was aboard one of the KC-10s and filmed the refueling operations of the F-35As. You will notice that the A model is refueled by means of the USAF’s standard flying boom system, as opposed to the F-35B that instead of the fuel receptacle use the on-board IFR probe required by the hose and drogue system, the Navy/Marines standard. Noteworthy, according to Drew, the F-35As required 4 aerial refueling operations each: the F-35A has a max range of 1,200 miles, while the F-35B has a max range of 900 miles (thus the need for an additional AAR).

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Lockheed Martin has officially unveiled Israel’s first F-35

Here’s the F-35A “Adir” (“Mighty One”): the first Lightning II for the Israeli Air Force.

With a ceremony broadcast live on Youtube, the first Israeli F-35 was rolled out on Jun. 22 at Lockheed Martin production plant at Ft. Worth, Texas.

The 5th Generation aircraft, designated AS-1, is expected to be delivered to the Israeli Air Force (IAF) later this year.

According to the Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman, who spoke during the arrival of the F-35 stealth fighter, “the most advanced in the world and the best for safeguarding Israel’s aerial superiority,” will enhance the Israeli deterrence against its enemies for many years to come.

Israel has contracted for 33 F-35A Conventional Take Off and Landing (CTOL) aircraft through the U.S. government’s Foreign Military Sales program with an option for 17 more Joint Strike Fighters.

The aircraft will have components contributed by Israeli companies, including Israel Aerospace Industries that will produce the F-35’s outer wings, Elbit Systems-Cyclone, that will provide center fuselage composite components as well as Elbit Systems Ltd. that will provide Gen. III helmet-mounted display systems to be worn by all Lightning II pilots.

It’s still not clear how many “domestic” modifications, including EW (Electronic Warfare) pods, weaponry, C4 systems etc. the aircraft, sometimes dubbed F-35I (for Israel) will embed.

F-35 IAF 2

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The Italian Air Force has successfully accomplished the F-35’s first transatlantic crossing

The Italian Air Force made the history by successfully accomplishing the F-35’s first transatlantic crossing.

On Feb. 5, the first Italian Air Force F-35, the first JSF built outside the U.S., landed at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Mariland, at the end of a 7-hour transatlantic flight from Lajes Air Base, in Portugal.

The aircraft, dubbed AL-1 and serialled MM7332 departed from Cameri on Feb. 3 and was scheduled to land in the U.S. on the following day but the trip was delayed due to strong winds over the Atlantic Ocean.

The aircraft was piloted by one of the two ItAF pilots who successfully completed the training at Luke AFB last year.

F-35 ground

F-35 left side

The aircraft arrived at Pax River, where it will be involved in testing activities before moving to Luke Air Force Base, was accompanied by two KC-767 tankers, two C-130Js for logistical and SAR support, and one two-seater Eurofighter Typhoon acting as chase plane. One of F-2000B remained at Lajes as spare, and will wait until all return from the States within a couple of days (except for the JSF).

C-130J

Typhoon B

Typhoon B 2

The pictures in this post show the formation arriving a Lajes: noteworthy, the stopover marked the first landing of an F-35 in Portugal.

Image credit: APS – Associação Portugal Spotters