Tag Archives: Lockheed Martin

The First Japanese-Built F-35A Unveiled At Nagoya Production Facility In Japan

AX-5, the first Japanese-assembled F-35A was unveiled in Nagoya Japan earlier today.

The first F-35A assembled in Japan, AX-5 “79-8705”, was unveiled out of the Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) Komaki South F-35 Final Assembly and Check Out (FACO) facility on Jun. 5.

Just like the Italian F-35 FACO in Cameri, the Japan F-35 FACO is operated by a local aerospace company, MHI. with technical assistance from Lockheed Martin and oversight from the U.S. Government.

According to a LM release, approximately 200 people attended the ceremony including Japanese and United States government and defense industry leaders.

“Seeing the first Japanese built F-35A is a testament to the global nature of this program”, said Vice Adm. Mat Winter, F-35 Program Executive Officer. “This state of the art assembly facility, staffed with a talented and motivated workforce, enables us to leverage industry’s unique talents and technological know-how to produce the world’s best multi-role fighter. The F-35 will enhance the strength of our security alliances and reinforce long-established bonds with our allies through training opportunities, exercises, and military-to-military events.”

The Japanese Ministry of Defense selected the Joint Strike Fighter as the Japan Air Self-Defense Force’s next-generation air defense fighter in December 2011, with a Foreign Military Sales program of 42 F-35As. The first four JASDF F-35As were previously delivered from the Fort Worth, Texas production facility. Subsequent deliveries of 38 F-35A aircraft will come from the FACOin Japan.

Additionally, the U.S. Department of Defense selected the Nagoya FACO in 2014 for the North Asia-Pacific regional heavy airframe Maintenance Repair Overhaul & and Upgrade (MROU) facility.

The JASDF’s  low visibility “Hinomaru” roundel applied to the F-35A AX-5 and visible in top image (by Thinh Nguyen, Lockheed Martin) appears to be slightly more evident and recognizable than the one sported by the first JASDF F-35A (AX-1) that was rolled out at prime contractor Lockheed Martin’s Dallas-Fort Worth plant on Sept. 23, 2016 (see image below).

A screenshot from the video of the roll-out ceremony for the first JASDF F-35A on Sept. 23, 2016.

Poland To Reinitiate Procurement Of Combat SAR Helicopters

A new procurement procedure would see a competition between S-70i, H225M and AW101.

According to the information circulated around the Polish defense media outlets, the Armament Inspectorate of the Polish MoD (which is the Polish defense procurement agency) eyes acquisition of CSAR helicopters for the Special Operations component. The 7th Special Operations Squadron based at the Powidz 33rd Airlift Base of the Polish Air Force is the most probable user of the future rotary-wing aircraft. The plan is to procure 8 helicopters.

The recently opened procurement procedure involves all of the contractors that have submitted the offers, according to the Inspectorate – none of the offers was rejected.

Interestingly, the current procedure involves the very same contractors of the previous, cancelled tender: Airbus Helicopters that partnered with Heli Invest Sp. z o.o. company; Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation and PZL Mielec Sp. z o.o.; and “PZL-Świdnik” S.A. company, which is a part of the Italian Leonardo Group.

Due to the Polish national security interest, the negotiation is legally required to be carried out in strict secrecy and, until the moment the process ends, no information can be released.

Unofficial information, on the other hand, suggests that the new procurement procedure would see a competition between almost the same types of helicopters pitched in the former tender: Sikorsky is offering the Black Hawk, Airbus is offering the H.225M Caracal whereas PZL-Swidnik company, instead of proposing the lighter AW149 platform, is now rumored to try to pitch the AW101 helicopter which close in its specs to the Italian Air Force HH-101A Caesar.

HH-101A Caesar during a recent demo that took place at the Bemowo/Babice airfield in Warsaw

A source having an in-depth insight in the aforesaid procurement program who wishes to remain anonymous has told us that the technical requirements and spec-sheet remain almost identical to the ones defined for the former tender. The S-70i Black Hawk, according to our informant, would remain non-compliant with the requirements drafted by the Polish MoD for the CSAR platform. Any other Black Hawk derivative that could be pushed for the Polish Special Ops component (e.g. Pave Hawk) would require a consent to be issued by the Congress and such helicopter should be procured through the FMS (Foreign Military Sales) process.

The Eurocopter EC-725 Cougar now called H225M.

Dealing with thePolish Navy‘s W-3 Anakonda and Mi-14 Haze helicopters replacement, the MoD still is inclined to press on and define requirements for a “joint, omni-capable” platform which would be suited to carrying out both ASW as well as SAR operations.

The maritime platform would be acquired within a separate procedure, as the facts and scarcity of information suggest.

The Sikorsky S-70i

Image Credit: Foto Poork/Wikimedia

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First F-35B Assembled Internationally Rolled Out of Cameri FACO Production Facility

It’s the first F-35B assembled outside of the U.S.

On May. 5, the first F-35B, the Short Take-Off Vertical Landing variant of the the F-35 Lightning II, destined to the Italian Navy, rolled out of the Final Assembly and Check Out (FACO) facility at Cameri, in northwestern Italy.

The aircraft, designated BL-1, is the first F-35B assembled internationally. It is expected to perform its first flight in late August and will be delivered to the Italian MoD in November 2017. After a series of “confidence flights” from Cameri, an Italian pilot will fly the first F-35B jet to Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Maryland, early in 2018 to conduct required Electromagnetic Environmental Effects certification. The next Italian F-35B aircraft is scheduled for delivery in November 2018.

According to a Lockheed Martin release, besides the first B example, two Italian F-35A aircraft will be delivered from Cameri this year, the first by July and the second in the fourth quarter. To date, seven F-35As have been delivered from the Cameri FACO; four of those jets are now based at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona, for international pilot training and three are at Amendola Air Base, near Foggia on the Adriatic coast. With these aircraft based in Italy and flown by the 13° Gruppo, the Aeronautica Militare (Italian Air Force) has already flown more than 100 flight hours.

In spite of a very low profile on the subject, Italy has achieved some important results with the F-35.

On Dec. 3, 2015, the ItAF welcomed the first F-35 at the Cameri FACO. That aircraft was also the first assembled and delivered outside the U.S.

On Feb. 5, 2016 the first Italian Air Force F-35, successfully completed the type’s very first transatlantic crossing landing at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Maryland. On Dec. 12, 2016, the Italian Air Force became the first service to take delivery of the first operational F-35s outside the United States.

“Italy is not only a valued F-35 program partner that has achieved many F-35 program ‘firsts’, but is also a critical NATO air component force, providing advanced airpower for the alliance for the coming decades,” Doug Wilhelm, Lockheed Martin F-35 Program Management vice president, said at the event for the roll out of the first F-35B. “Italian industry has participated in the design of the F-35 and Italian industry made components fly on every production F-35 built to date.”

The Italian FACO, a 101-acre facility including 22 buildings and more than one million square feet of covered work space, housing 11 assembly stations, and five maintenance, repair, overhaul, and upgrade bays, is owned by the Italian Ministry of Defense and is operated by Leonardo in conjunction with Lockheed Martin Aeronautics. According to Lockheed, 800 skilled personnel are engaged in full assembly of the Conventional Take-off/Landing F-35A and F-35B aircraft variants and is also producing 835 F-35A full wing sets to support all customers in the program.

The Cameri FACO has the only F-35B production capability outside the United States. It will assemble the 60 Italian F-35As and 30 F-35Bs (for a total of 90 aircraft to be procured by the Italian Air Force and Navy), will build 29 F-35A for the Royal Netherlands Air Force and was selected in December 2014 as the European F-35 airframe Maintenance, Repair, Overhaul and Upgrade center for the entire European region.

In spite of some initial internal criticism and threatened cuts, F-35s will replace the Italian Air Force ageing Tornado and AMX attack planes and the Italian Navy AV-8B aircraft.

Image credit: LM

 

Lockheed Debuts New S-97 Raider Light Tactical Helicopter Video in Marketing Push

Proposed Helicopter Would Replace MH-6/AH-6 Little Bird if Adopted.

Lockheed Martin has released a new promotional video showing the S-97 Raider light tactical helicopter demonstrating many of its unique performance capabilities.

The S-97 Raider, if adopted by the U.S. military, would replace the aging family of MH-6/AH-6 Little Bird helicopters widely used since the Vietnam conflict as special operations and observation/light attack helicopters. The MH-6/AH-6 family first flew in 1963 making it a legacy platform that has been continuously updated for expanded roles. Most airframes in U.S. service are now aging and, because a light tactical helicopter is subjected to high stresses in operational and training use the older aircraft are approaching the end of their structural lifespan.

The new S-97 Raider is a significant technology update over previous light attack/observation helicopters. It uses a mostly carbon fiber composite fuselage like the MV-22 Osprey. The S-97 has much higher performance than the MH-6/AH-6 family, more internal space for up to 6 combat equipped troops, a unique co-axial rotor system and a host of additional technological advancements. Lockheed-Martin is firstly and specifically configuring the S-97 as a replacement of the U.S. Special Operations Command MH-6M Little Bird. The significant difference in top speeds between the MH-6M at only 175 MPH and the new S-97 at 276 MPH is just one example of the massive performance and capability improvement available with Lockheed-Martin’s new platform.

Innovative performance features of the new Lockheed-Martin/Sikorsky S-97 Raider. (LM)

Another key performance enhancement is that the S-97 program has greatly improved “hot, high and heavy” rotary wing performance. Helicopters often struggle with performance at high altitude in hot weather conditions and can become vulnerable to performance problems like “vortex ring state”. Vortex ring state likely contributed to the controlled crash of a highly modified U.S. special operations helicopter, the MH-X Stealth Black Hawk, during the May 2, 2011 raid to apprehend Osama bin Laden, Operation Neptune Spear.

Few years ago The Aviationist pointed out some similarities in the possible shape of the MH-X and the S-97.

The new S-97 has already demonstrated stable, controllable hover capability at 6,000 feet AGL and 95° Fahrenheit. The aircraft has also maneuvered at speed to 3g’s.

The co-axial or contra-rotating main rotors on the S-97 were originally conceived by Russian engineer Mikhail Lomonosov. This design has been proven on Russian designs including the successfully deployed newer Kamov KA-50 and KA-52 attack helicopters and much older designs like the KA-27 family of Kamov helicopters widely used in different versions in both military and commercial roles mostly by the Russians.

Contra-rotating main rotors were first developed and employed by the Russians including this Kamov KA-50 attack. (image credit: Russian Aviation Photography)

Advantages to a co-axial rotor system include equalizing the effects of torque compared to helicopters with one-directional large rotating blades or “rotary wings”. Helicopters with a single large rotor system have a tendency to “pull” or rotate in the direction of the main rotor blades’ rotation. To counteract the rotational force of a single main rotor the smaller tail rotor is mounted sideways as is conventionally seen on helicopters. The tail rotor on the new S-97 Raider is rear-facing, adding more thrust than a conventional sideways mounted rotor and contributing to the S-97’s higher top speed.

The S-97 Raider program was initially started to replace the aging OH-58 Kiowa Warrior observation helicopter under a then-$16 billion U.S. Army acquisition program named “Armed Aerial Scout.”

The program was put on hold prior to the U.S. Presidential election due to budgetary constraints. Sikorsky, the originator of the program, teamed with Lockheed-Martin to continue the program and adjusted the marketing focus to a broader mission set.

Here’s an interesting promotional video of the S-97:

 

Here are first U.S. Air Force F-35As landing at RAF Lakenheath for their first European deployment

Six F-35A Lightning II belonging to the 34th FS from Hill Air Force Base, Utah, have arrived at RAF Lakenheath.

On Apr. 15, the F-35A 14-5094/HL, 14-5096/HL, 14-5097/HL, 14-5102/HL, 14-5098/HL and 13-5072/HL arrived at Royal Air Force Lakenheath, England, for the first overseas training deployment to Europe of the U.S. Air Force’s Joint Strike Fighter.

The aircraft belong to the 34th Fighter Squadron, 388th Fighter Wing and the Air Force Reserve’s 466th Fighter Squadron, 419th Fighter Wing, Hill Air Force Base, Utah, and will conduct air training over the next several weeks with other Europe-based aircraft in support of the European Reassurance Initiative.

F-35A Lightning II 14-5096/HL from the 34th Fighter Squadron at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, land at Royal Air Force Lakenheath, England, April 15, 2017.

The transatlantic flight was supported by Air Mobility Command and the 100th Air Refueling Wing, from RAF Mildenhall, England. Multiple air refueling aircraft from four different bases offloaded more than 400,000 pounds of fuel during the “tanker bridge” from the United States to Europe, according to the U.S. Air Force. C-17 and C-5 aircraft moved airlift support, moving maintenance equipment and personnel.

F-35A 14-5097/HL landing into RAF Lakenheath

“RAF Lakenheath will be the first overseas beddown location for the F-35A, this deployment allows our pilots and maintainers to learn more about the European operating environment and will improve our interoperability with partners in the region” said Gen. Tod D. Wolters, U.S. Air Forces in Europe, Air Forces Africa commander in a USAF release.

Interestingly, as done by USAF combat planes deployed to Europe as part of Theater Security Packages (TSPs), the F-35s will forward deploy to NATO nations to maximize training opportunities, build partnerships with allied air forces and gain a broad familiarity of Europe’s diverse operating conditions.

All the photographs in this post were taken at RAF Lakenheath by The Aviationist’s contributor Tony Lovelock.

The USAF F-35A 14-5102/HL in short final at Lakenheath

 

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