Tag Archives: F35B

BBC News: US F35 fighters to deploy from Royal Navy aircraft carrier

US F35 fighters to deploy from Royal Navy aircraft carrier – http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-38336101

US and Royal Navy F35B to operate together from HMS Queen Elizabeth? Well, no surprises there then.

 To be fair, RN personnel have been embedded with the US Navy for some time in the States, and have operated on board US Carriers with some success. It’s a good job then because when the new carriers cone into service, the R N will have to hit the floor running. When the F35B is released to service in 2018, it will have been 8 years since the RN operated fixed wing combat aircraft since the demise of the Harrier. So we could assume at least a year to work up both man and machine to become a lean, mean fighting machine. One of the problems though is recruitment, since the Navy is most affected by lack of new recruits, and the UK services generally are being cut back by successive governments. It makes one wonder if, when the HMS QE and the F35B are fully integrated whether her majesties government will increase the defence budget or as is likely it will stay the same or decrease, making it even more difficult to recruit new service personnel? The hoo-ha and trumpeting by various defence ministers are good sound bites, but they don’t bring about a call to arms.Then there is the Trump effect, how much is he for the military? He doesn’t like the last three Presidents have any military background, so is he going to be gung ho to rid Syria of IS with our or others help? The juries still out.

Early deployment beckons…?

F-35 Marks New Era For Stealth

With thanks to Aviation Week & Space Technology

U.S. Air Force F-35s could deploy in 18 months

Ready for War

It took the Air Force almost a decade to send the F-22 Raptor to a combat zone after declaring the stealth fighter ready for war. But after giving the green light to the first operational F-35A squadron in late July, the Air Force is signaling the fledgling fleet will deploy to fight Islamic State group terrorists in the very near future.

The Air Force’s eagerness to send its shiny new fighter into battle is a marked shift from years past, when deploying the radar-avoiding F-22 to the Middle East was viewed as provocative. But as the U.S. and its allies face a resurgent Russia and the proliferation of advanced weapons that can easily track and shoot down many legacy fighters, the service seems to be casting aside the Pentagon’s historically more cautious use of stealth aircraft.

USAF declared its F-35A ready for war right on schedule Aug. 2

Senior leaders signal the JSF will soon deploy to Europe, the Pacific, and the Middle East

Despite the Air Force’s confidence, the F-35 will not reach full warfighting capability until 2018, at earliest

Gen. Herbert “Hawk” Carlisle, the chief of Air Combat Command, says he hopes in the next 18 months to send the Joint Strike Fighter to Europe and the Pacific, suggesting that such a move would send a message in response to increasing Russian and Chinese military activity. And if U.S. Central Command asks for the F-35 in the Middle East, Carlisle says he would comply in a heartbeat.

“From my perspective, it sends a good signal,” Carlisle says. “I think it reassures friends and allies and is a deterrent to potential adversaries, so I don’t think it’s a provocative move at all.”

In rolling out the F-35, the Air Force may be taking lessons learned from the Raptor to heart. Although the F-22 entered service in 2005, the jet did not see its first combat deployment until the U.S.-led intervention in Syria in 2014. The F-22’s deployments to the Middle East to fight Islamic State insurgents and to Europe to counter Russian aggression did wonders for its public image. The Raptor is now so popular, Congress has inquired about what it would take to resurrect the production line.

Now as the F-35 comes online, our partners and allies are eager to see the jet in action, Carlisle says.

The current configuration of F-35A aircraft can carry the AIM-120 Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile, the GPS-guided Joint Direct Attack Munition and the laser- guided Paveway missile. Credit: U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Madelyn Brown

When F-35s deploy to the European and Pacific theater, this will give our allies and partners confidence in the airframe, Carlisle says. “It will also give them a chance to see it in operation and in interoperability, working with their fourth-generation airplanes,” he adds.

Even though Carlisle lauded the F-35’s performance, the stealthy fighter jet is still immature and has limited capability to actually fight on today’s battlefield. Two U.S. F-35 variants—the Marine Corps’ F-35B and now the Air Force’s F-35A—have been declared ready for combat, but the jet will not be fully operational until it has completed a vigorous testing period that will not begin until August 2018, at the earliest. The initial aircraft will not have its full suite of electronic warfare, data fusion, automated maintenance capability or weapons capacity until the final warfighting software, Block 3F, is fielded in 2018.

For now, the F-35A in its 3i configuration can carry the AIM-120 Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile, GPS-guided Joint Direct Attack Munition and laser-guided Paveway missile. Block 3F will add the short-range AIM-9X Sidewinder missile, Small-Diameter Bomb and main gun system—the 25-mm, four-barrel GAU-22/A.

The gun is key to one of the F-35’s primary missions: protecting soldiers on the ground, also called close-air support. Though a 2,000-lb. bomb is effective in destroying a target, a huge blast is not ideal when enemy and friendly ground forces are engaged in close combat.

Meanwhile, the Pentagon’s top weapons tester cautions that while it is the Air Force’s decision when to declare the F-35 ready for war, the Block 3i software is limited, and its deficiencies will impact mission effectiveness.

“While the USAF has determined that the F-35A with Block 3i mission systems software provides ‘basic’ capabilities for IOC [initial operating
capability], the limitations and deficiencies in performance for the F-35A with Block 3i discussed in the 2015 DOT&E [Director, Operational Test and Evaluation] Annual Report largely remain and will affect mission effectiveness and suitability in combat,” says Pentagon spokesman Maj. Roger Cabiness.

Still, Carlisle says, the F-35 is equipped to carry out many missions U.S. forces are flying today in the Middle East, including pre-planned airstrikes, interdiction, and defensive and offensive counter air. airstrikes, interdiction, and defensive and offensive counter air. Even without its full potential, the Air Force would have no qualms about sending it into battle.

 Rocket Testsairstrikes, interdiction, and defensive and offensive counter air. Even without its full potential, the Air Force would have no qualms about sending it into battle.

Marine Fighter Attack Sqdn. (VMFA) 121, the “Green Knights” based out of MCAS Yuma, Arizona, will be the first to deploy overseas; in January the squadron flies to MCAS Iwakuni, Japan. Meanwhile, RAF Lakenheath in the U.K. is set to receive its first of 24 jets in 2021. 

“The F-35A brings an unprecedented combination of lethality, survivability and adaptability to joint and combined operations and is ready to deploy and strike well-defended targets anywhere on Earth,” says newly minted Air Force Chief of Staff.

Ed’s note: this all presupposes that those F35 aircraft to be deployed to European airfirces: UK, Austria, Italy et al, will be based in their own countries as well as the USA aircraft. So which Force will have precedence? The US DoD obviously thinks they can do the job better than their European counterparts if they are already announcing deployment from 2018. Surely the home countries defence departments will have greater knowledge of the requirement than the good ‘ole US if A. After all their track record in similar circumstances has not always been good. Comments?



Buying Spree?

At the RIAT air show, the outgoing prime minister signed off £4bn for the purchase of 8 Poseidon P-8A maritime patrol aircraft.

This pales into insignificance the £18bn purchase, potentially of 138 Lightening II F35B from Lockheed, including possibly the delivery of the F35A variant which us basically a Typhoon rival, and seems a bit pointless to me. This was after the flip-flop from the ‘cats and traps” version, the F35C, which can’t be used on the new aircraft carriers HMSs Queen Elizabeth and Prince Charles without considerable, costly upgrades; and the final purchase the F35B. So why are we buying the F35A (quantity unkniwn)? Who knows, someone may provide an answer. Perhaps the 10 year contract to support the Typhoon may have something to do with it.

The F35Bs flown over from the USA have wowed crowds at the Farnborough air show and are now safely back at Lockheed presumably. The media were impressed with them, but that’s not usually difficult at a market stall like Farnborough. Let’s hope that the promised world wide sales make the F35 a success, it needs it.

Yet more damning evidence.

Read this:


Our New Stealth Jet Can’t Land

There are big air shows in the UK this summer. The British public may be a little disappointed, however. The F-35B Joint Strike Fighter—the stealth jet that’s supposed to be able to take off and land vertically, like a helicopter—will be on display for the first time outside the U.S. But it won’t emulate the vertical landings that the Harrier family has made routine since the Beatles were playing dodgy nightclubs in Hamburg.

U.S. Marine aviation boss Brig. Gen. Matthew Glavy has said that there are no plans for the F-35B to perform vertical landings (VLs) in the UK, because the program has not finished testing the matting that’s needed to protect the runway from exhaust heat. (The program office, the Marines, and Lockheed Martin did not return emails about any part of this story.) It may sound like a simple issue, but it pops the lids off two cans of worms: the program’s relationship with the truth, and the operational utility of VL.

The F-35B—the version of the Joint Strike Fighter that the Marines and the British are buying—is designed to take off in a few hundred feet and land vertically, like a helicopter. Its advocates say that will allow the Marines to use short runways worldwide as improvised fighter bases, providing air cover for expeditionary forces. But to do VL, the engine thrust must be pointed straight downward, and the jet is twice the size of a Harrier. Result: a supersonic, pulsating jackhammer of 1,700-degree F exhaust gas.

In December 2009, the Naval Facilities Engineering Command (Navfac) issued specifications for contractors bidding on JSF construction work. The main engine exhaust, the engineers said, was hot and energetic enough to have a 50% chance of spalling concrete on the first VL. (“Spalling” occurs when water in the concrete boils faster than it can escape, and steam blows flakes away from the surface.)

Lockheed Martin, the lead contractor on the F-35B, was dismissive. The specifications were out of date and based on worst-case assessments, the company said, and tests in January 2010 showed that “the difference between F-35B exhaust temperature and that of the AV-8B [Harrier] is very small, and is not anticipated to require any significant… changes” to how the new plane was operated.

Navfac ignored Lockheed Martin and commissioned high-temperature-concrete VL pads at four sites. At the Navy’s Patuxent River flight test center, F-35Bs perform VLs on a pad of AM-2 aluminum matting, protecting the concrete from heat and blast. Why didn’t the January 2010 tests result in a change to the specifications? How were those tests performed? The Navy has referred those questions to Lockheed Martin, which has repeatedly failed to answer them.

This isn’t the only instance where Lockheed Martin has tried to shoot the messenger on the basis of weak facts. Last year, the Rand Corporation in a report concluded that the JSF—a program that incorporates three variants of F-35, each one for a different military service—will cost more than three single-service programs would have done. Lockheed Martin accused Rand of using “outdated data,” but founded that criticism on numbers that were not in the report.

One reason the F-35 program is running behind schedule is that Pentagon overseers forced Lockheed Martin and the program office to reinstate flight tests that they had cut out, a move that the current program manager thinks was necessary. But Lockheed Martin consultant Loren Thompson accused Pentagon testing experts of “wanting the opportunity to close out their home mortgages and get that last kid through college.”

After a 2011 report showed the F-35A cost per flight-hour to be 40 percent higher than the F-16’s, program leaders asserted that the Pentagon’s accountants had misinterpreted their own numbers. Three years later, the numbers have barely budged.

Our New Stealth Jet Can’t Land
The bigger issue is that the Pentagon bought the F-35B for two reasons: it can land on an LHA/LHD-class amphibious warfare ship, and it can operate from an improvised forward operating location, created around a 3,000-foot runway. The capabilities are complementary. Without one of those forward operating locations, the amphibious force is limited to six fighters per LHA (unless essential helicopters are off-loaded). But a short runway is of little value unless you can use it twice.

And what Navfac calls “standard airfield concrete” is military-grade, made with aggregate and Portland cement. Many runways are asphaltic concrete—aggregate in a bitumen binder—which softens and melts under heat.

The Marines could use AM-2 landing pads. But AM-2 is not a friend to the agility that justifies the F-35B over other forms of expeditionary airpower. An Air Force study calls it “slow to install, difficult to repair, (with) very poor air-transportability characteristics.” A single 100- by 100-foot VL pad weighs around 30 tons and comprises 400 pieces, each individually installed by two people.

At the very least, that will add to the challenges of operating a complex 25-ton fighter—twice as big and fuel-thirsty as the Harrier it replaces—under canvas and off the grid, particularly in a hybrid-war situation where supplying a squadron by land may be hazardous or impossible.

Rolling or creeping vertical landings can spread the heat load over a greater area. But there is no sign that they have been tested on concrete, asphalt, or AM-2 over asphalt. What about multiple, close-together landings? Will hot asphalt debris stay off the fighter’s stealthy skin?

Nobody seems willing to say when such tests will be conducted—which is odd, because we do flight tests to prove the airplane can meet requirements. How was the requirement for the F-35B to VL on a non-standard runway framed? Indeed, was that requirement formally defined at all? Omitting the latter would have been a catastrophic mistake by the Pentagon.

At least $21 billion out of of the JSF’s $55 billion research and development bill is directly attributable to the F-35B variant, which also has the highest unit cost of any military aircraft in production. The design compromises in the F-35B have added weight, drag and cost to the F-35A and F-35C. It would be nice to know that—air shows aside—it will deliver some of its promised operational utility.