F-35 - News and Discussions

Eagle1

Senior Moderator
Staff member
Joined
Nov 17, 2017
Messages
5,344
Reactions
2,395 241
Amid ‘green glow’ concerns, another issue has emerged for pilots flying the F-35 at night
By: David B. Larter
12 June 2019

View attachment 8003
F-35 fighter jets conduct their first night flying trials off the United Kingdom’s warship HMS Queen Elizabeth. (Dane Wiedmann/F-35 Lightning II Pax River ITF)

WASHINGTON — Engineers and pilots continue to struggle with operating the F-35 jet in low-light conditions, with a new issue emerging that obstructs the horizon line for pilots when flying at night with below-average levels of starlight, according to documents exclusively obtained by Defense News.

The issue, which affects the feed from the night vision camera, appears to the pilot as wonky horizontal lines, or striations, in the night vision display, obscuring the horizon.

“During shore-based testing in overcast starlight conditions, [helmet-mounted display] symbology brightness and video contrast at the max settings and while adjusting video brightness, the pilots were unable to generate a reliable image of the horizon at any time, or to display a scene with texturing critical for peripheral motion cues,” the government document reads.

Fixing the glitch, which was first reported in November 2017, is a top priority for the U.S. Marine Corps, according to the documents. The issue is listed as a category 1 deficiency in the documents and is defined as something that “critically restricts the combat readiness capabilities of the using organization.” In this scale, category 1 represents the most serious type of deficiency.

The issue affects all versions of the F-35, the documents point out.

The problem is separate from ongoing concerns about “green glow” emitted by the helmet-mounted display’s LED lights, which can obstruct a pilot’s view of an aircraft carrier’s deck lights during night landing operations at sea in very low light.

The glow issue is also listed as a category 1 deficiency, according to the documents. But while it is a separate issue, a Lockheed Martin executive in a statement pointed to a common solution for both low-light issues: the improved Generation III F-35 helmet currently being fielded.

“The improved Gen III helmet has already been designed, tested and is now being qualified for use,” said Greg Ulmer, Lockheed Martin’s general manager of the F-35 program. “The first few of these new helmets have been delivered and we anticipate the upgraded helmets will resolve both the green glow and night vision conditions identified.”

Furthermore, the Navy is looking to “organic light-emitting diode” technology in its displays to permanently solve its “green glow” issue. That potential solution is expected to be deployed this year. In short, rapidly advancing technology should solve both the issue with the night vision camera as well as the the sticky “green glow” problem.

View attachment 8002
U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Edwin Portan inspects the coaxial cable on a helmet-mounted display at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., on Feb. 29, 2016. These cables plug into the F-35A Lightning II. (Senior Airman Andrea Posey/U.S. Air Force)

“As camera and OLED technology advances rapidly, we expect the F-35 helmet to continue to deliver unprecedented levels of situational awareness for pilots and only improve further over time,” Ulmer said.

Defense News submitted written questions to the Defense Department’s F-35 program office concerning these and other deficiencies, but it did not respond by press time, despite multiple follow-ups over a period of months.

Workarounds and solutions
A source familiar with the program and the efforts to fix its deficiencies said that solving the green glow issue may, in fact, improve the night vision issue because the display settings will be better optimized for the night vision camera feed.

“If you imagine you have a camera that doesn’t have the contrast that you would really love to have and you have the green glow, the two together don’t make you happy," the source said. "If you take the green glow away and you change the contrast on the camera, the two of them together start looking a lot better.

“We’ll need to wait and see because the green glow was a big driver in making that [night vision camera] objectionable. So I’m not trying to exonerate the camera. What I’m saying is I don’t think we had the system to be able to differentiate: Is it the camera or the green glow that was causing the problem?"

Issues with low-light operations have pushed the Navy to only allow experienced pilots to fly the F-35 in conditions that elicit the green glow issue. For now, if the conditions for green glow obstruction are in play, only pilots with 50 or more night carrier landings can fly the plane.

Last year, the commander of the Navy’s strike fighter squadron told reporters that the green glow issue forced a number of actions from the pilots in order to make sure they could land safely, and for the time being that was best left to more experienced fliers.

"There are some complexities with the green glow that we deal with right now, but we only do it with experienced pilots,” said Cmdr. Tommy Locke, according to Military.com. “In that really dark environment, you can’t get the display down low enough where you can still process the image on the display, and once you bring the display up high enough where you can, that information — it conflicts with the outside world.”

Locke also said OLED technology was going to make a big difference.

“It reduces the green glow; there’s a much crisper picture that will allow us to avoid the disorientation with the green glow,” he said.

Valerie Insinna in Washington contributed to this report.

 

Eagle1

Senior Moderator
Staff member
Joined
Nov 17, 2017
Messages
5,344
Reactions
2,395 241
There are Turkish jets in the Pentagon’s latest F-35 deal. Here’s why that’s not a big problem.
By: Valerie Insinna  
1 hour ago
13 June 2019

View attachment 8006
WASHINGTON — The Pentagon’s latest deal with Lockheed Martin for new F-35 jets includes some for Turkey, raising the question of what will happen if the country is pushed out of the program.

The handshake agreement announced Monday totals about $34 billion for 478 new F-35s over lots 12 through 14, including about five to 10 jets for Turkey per lot, one source told Defense News.

But that might not complicate the process of finalizing the contract agreement, aerospace analysts and other sources close to the program said — even as the Defense Department begins “unwinding” Turkey’s participation in the program.

At issue is Turkey’s purchase of the S-400, a Russian air defense system that U.S. and NATO officials say is at odds with the alliance’s plan to field the F-35. Despite months of discussions between Ankara and Washington, Turkish leaders have emphatically maintained that it will not cancel the S-400 order.

In response, acting U.S. Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan on June 6 approved a plan to strip Turkey from the F-35 program. Turkish pilots and maintainers undergoing training at U.S. bases are required to leave the United States by July 31, and contracts with Turkish defense companies could end in 2020.

In response, acting U.S. Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan on June 6 approved a plan to strip Turkey from the F-35 program. Turkish pilots and maintainers undergoing training at U.S. bases are required to leave the United States by July 31, and contracts with Turkish defense companies could end in 2020.


Ankara has since doubled down on its intent to buy the S-400. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Wednesday that the purchase is already “a done deal” and that the Russian air defense system will be delivered in July, according to Reuters.

“We will call to account in every platform Turkey being excluded from the F-35 program for reasons without rationale or legitimacy,” Erdogan said.

So what if Turkey leaves?
Sources told Defense News that Turkey’s potential exit from the program isn’t expected to have much of an impact on the deal for lots 12 through 14.

The Pentagon hasn’t provided exact costs per unit for the new F-35s, but it has acknowledged that unit flyaway costs will decrease by about 8.8 percent in Lot 12, made up of 157 jets. The department also estimates unit prices will drop by about 15 percent from Lot 11 to Lot 14 across all variants.

By that framework, F-35 customers will be able to buy an F-35A conventional-takeoff-and-landing model for less than $80 million by Lot 13 — one year earlier than expected. That isn’t expected to change, even if Turkey is knocked from the program, a department source said.

Rebecca Grant of IRIS Independent Research said it’s likely the number of jets and the negotiated prices in the handshake agreement will stand, adding that the Defense Department still has options on the table.

“They can let Turkey go ahead and have those jets [and] park them in the desert [until this issue is resolved]. They can switch to a customer that wants earlier deliveries — also an option,” she said.

Dealing with these types of problems isn’t new for the United States, added Grant, who pointed to the U.S. arms embargo on Pakistan in 1990, which resulted in the country’s F-16s being placed into storage.

Richard Aboulafia, an aerospace analyst at the Teal Group, said there are multiple ways for the Pentagon to deal with the fallout of a Turkish exit from the program.

Countries like Singapore and Poland, which have expressed interest in buying F-35s, could join the program and pick up the slack. If Congress adds F-35s to upcoming budget cycles — which has been typical in recent years — the U.S. armed services could buy Turkey’s jets.

“I really don’t see it as a challenge,” Aboulafia said. “This is not the same as building white tails in the commercial aviation business.”

Another option was outlined by Marillyn Hewson, the head of F-35 manufacturer Lockheed Martin, in May: Sell Turkey’s jets to existing international customers.

“It’s not a significant number of aircraft that if there was a sanction that they couldn’t receive those aircraft now or in the future; it will be backfilled,” she said at Bernstein’s Strategic Decisions Conference, according to Defense One. “In fact, a lot of countries say: ‘We’ll take their [production line] slots.’ They [other countries] really want the aircraft. I don’t envision that being an impact on us from a Turkey standpoint.”

U.S. officials remain hopeful that Turkey will cancel its S-400 order, and they have made it clear that Turkey’s participation in the F-35 program will continue if that happens.

“Turkey still has the option to change course. If Turkey does not accept delivery of the S-400, we will enable Turkey to return to normal F-35 program activities,” Ellen Lord, the Pentagon’s acquisition chief, said June 7.

The U.S. government is no rush to expel Turkey from the program, Grant said. Including Turkey in the current contract negotiations helps send that message.

“We need Turkey in NATO, and we’d like to see a Turkish Air Force with F-35s,” she said. “This is going to take some diplomacy.”

Aboulafia noted that Turkey benefits from its involvement in the F-35 program, with its companies manufacturing parts for the jet’s F135 engine and a second supplier providing the center fuselage. The country has made the development of its defense industry a priority, and risks becoming a cottage industry if it alienates its NATO allies, he said.

“This does not do it any favors. They are going to have to line up partners and programs very fast," he added.

But the prospect of a happy resolution is looking increasing grim, he said.

“There is no room for compromise [on the U.S. side], and on the other side you have a populist, who is making this a test of his leadership. There is a lot of ego here.”

 

Eagle1

Senior Moderator
Staff member
Joined
Nov 17, 2017
Messages
5,344
Reactions
2,395 241
When US Navy and Marine F-35 pilots most need performance, the aircraft becomes erratic
By: David B. Larter
13 June 2019

View attachment 8008
U.S. Marines and sailors aboard the Wasp-class amphibious ship Essex watch an F-35C fly over the ship on March 28, 2018. (Cpl. A. J. Van Fredenberg/U.S. Marine Corps)

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Navy’s and Marine Corps’ F-35s become unpredictable to handle when executing the kind of extreme maneuvers a pilot would use in a dogfight or while avoiding a missile, according to documents exclusively obtained by Defense News.

Specifically, the Marine short-takeoff-and-vertical-landing variant and the Navy’s carrier-launched version become difficult to control when the aircraft is operating above a 20-degree angle of attack, which is the angle created by the oncoming air and the leading edge of the wing.

Pilots reported the aircraft experiencing unpredictable changes in pitch, as well as erratic yaw and rolling motions. The documents identify the issue as a category 1 deficiency and define it as something that limits the aircraft’s performance in such a way that it can’t accomplish its “primary or alternate mission(s).” In this scale, category 1 represents the most serious type of deficiency.

A Lockheed Martin executive told Defense News in a statement that he expects the issue to be resolved or downgraded soon as a result of software fixes.

“We’ve implemented an update to the flight control system that is planned for integration in the third quarter of this year — and we expect this item to be resolved or downgraded,” said Greg Ulmer, Lockheed Martin vice president and general manager of the company’s F-35 program.

The Pentagon’s F-35 program office did not respond to written questions from Defense News by press time, despite repeated follow-ups over a period of months.

In a deficiency report from the fleet, aviators said the issue "will cause modal confusion, prevent precise lift vector control, and prevent repeatable air-to-air combat techniques, resulting in mid-air collisions during training, controlled flight into terrain, and aircraft loss during combat engagements with adversary aircraft and missiles," according to the documents.

“Fleet pilots agreed it is very difficult to max perform the aircraft” in those circumstances, the document notes.

The U.S. Navy and Marine Corps as well as the United Kingdom have noted the deficiency as a leading priority.

The fleet will, in the near term, mitigate the issue by enforcing minimum separation rules between aircraft in flight, the documents said.

‘That ain’t working’
A retired Navy fighter pilot who reviewed the documents for Defense News said the ability to maneuver the aircraft above a 20-degree angle of attack is important if the aircraft needs to quickly maneuver to avoid a missile or during aerial combat with another aircraft.

“You’re telling me that the latest, greatest, $100 million aircraft can’t perform?” the aviator said.

The issue, if left unresolved, would dovetail in the worst way when combined with another issue reported by Defense News: At extremely high altitudes, the Navy and Marine Corps versions of the F-35 can only fly at supersonic speeds for short bursts of time without risking structural damage and loss of its stealth capability, a problem that may make it impossible for the Navy’s F-35C to conduct supersonic intercepts.

“It has random oscillations, pitch and yaw issues above [its] 20-[degree angle of attack]," the aviator said. "[So] if I had to perform the aircraft — if I had to maneuver to defeat a missile, maneuver to fight another aircraft, the plane could have issues moving. And if I turn around aggressively and get away from these guys and use the afterburner, [the horizontal tail and tail boom] start to melt or have issues.”

The issue with control above 20-degrees AOA gets to one of the main debates about the aircraft: What if it needed to get into a dogfight? The F-35 is supposed to detect and kill its prey at range with missiles — either its own or from another platform in the network. But history has taught naval aviation that ignoring the possibility of close combat with another aircraft can prove deadly.

“This was not designed as a [traditional] fighter,” said Jerry Hendrix, a retired naval flight officer and analyst with Telemus Group. “This was meant to fight at distance with missiles. If you got in close, if you had to go to guns, that ain’t working.”

In a statement addressing a broad range of issues reported exclusively by Defense News, Ulmer, the Lockheed executive, defended the performance of the jet.

“The F-35s today are meeting or exceeding performance specifications and delivering unprecedented capability and safety compared to legacy fighter aircraft. These issues are important to address, and each is well understood, resolved or on a path to resolution," Ulmer said. “We’ve worked collaboratively with our customers and we are fully confident in the F-35’s performance and the solutions in place to address each of the items identified.”

An active-duty naval aviator who reviewed the documents for Defense News said the issues are reflective of an aircraft that packed in a lot of new technology, adding that, historically, all new jets have had problems.

“That document looks like growing pains for an aircraft that we tried to do a whole lot to all at once,” the aviator said. “You’re going to see that if you dig back at what Super Hornets looked like for the first few years. Go back in the archives and look at Tomcat — think about that with the variable sweep-wing geometry, the AWG-9 Radar.

"There was a lot of new technology incorporated into the aircraft, and there are always going to be growing pains.”

Valerie Insinna in Washington contributed to this report.

 

Eagle1

Senior Moderator
Staff member
Joined
Nov 17, 2017
Messages
5,344
Reactions
2,395 241
When the F-35 blows a tire, it can set off a chain reaction of potential failures
By: Valerie Insinna  
13 June 2019

View attachment 8010
Staff Sgt. Mark Freeman, 33rd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, performs a post-flight check on an F-35A Lightning II tire before refueling it at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. (Samuel King Jr./U.S. Air Force)

WASHINGTON — The F-35 jet’s design puts it at risk of losing both of its hydraulic brake lines when a tire is blown upon landing, and although the issue has been corrected in the F-35C carrier version, the "A" and "B" models may not ever get a full fix.

The issue came to light in documents exclusively obtained by Defense News, in which the problem is labeled as a category 1 deficiency by the U.S. Defense Department, the designation given to serious technical problems that affect safety, mission effectiveness or some other requirement.

But not all such problems are created equal, and the Pentagon may be able to downgrade the deficiency to category 2 status without a fix in place.

According to the documents, the concern is that a blown tire “will result in the loss of one or both hydraulic systems, which may degrade directional control during landing rollout and could lead to runway departure,” presenting a loss-of-aircraft risk.

The integrated test force at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, which documented the deficiency in 2014, was originally “highly concerned” that the proximity of hydraulic lines could make the probability of a dual failure "nearly as likely as a single failure,” the documents state.

As a result, the brake lines were relocated in the F-35C, starting in the tenth lot of aircraft.

The F-35 Joint Program Office did not respond by press time to a detailed list of questions about the problem, submitted months in advance of publication, including why the issue has been corrected in the "C" variant and not the A and B models.

However, a risk assessment is ongoing that will help determine whether the problem can be downgraded to a category 2 deficiency, and whether further modifications are needed.

Greg Ulmer, Lockheed Martin’s F-35 program head, said that having two hydraulic lines provides redundancy if one line is ruptured, and that there has never been a case of both lines being impacted.

He also noted that the Defense Department’s program office has instituted some workarounds that have decreased the probability of blowing a tire.

“Brake control software updates and pilot training have alleviated this concern and resulted in a significant drop in blown tire events,” he said. “Additionally, we made minor adjustments to the location placement of hydraulic lines on the F-35C that has resolved the potential for line breaks. We believe the item is resolved and are standing by for additional customer feedback.”

Another source familiar with the program said while the frequency of blown tires made this a concern about four years ago, the rate of such events has slowed down “and it’s really been very quiet ever since, which shows good progress.”

In the past, when there has been a failure of a single hydraulic line, the incident has resulted in no injuries and less than $50,000 worth of damage to the aircraft, according to the documents.

Usually “such an event requires some repair work to the landing gear,” the U.S. Government Accountability Office explained in an April 2019 report, which added that both Lockheed and the government’s program office do not consider the issue a safety concern.

Mark Gunzinger, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Analysis and a former B-52 pilot, said the problem was a common one across military aircraft.

“I’ve broken hydraulic lines. I’ve blown tires,” he said. “It’s no fun, but it seems like they’re doing the right thing.”

 

Eagle1

Senior Moderator
Staff member
Joined
Nov 17, 2017
Messages
5,344
Reactions
2,395 241
The F-35 has to keep landing in cold weather. Here’s the plan to fix it.
12 June 2019
View attachment 8012
A U.S. Air Force F-35A takes off at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska. The cold around Eielson AFB forced some F-35s to the ground when it triggered a battery warning sensor. (Isaac Johnson/U.S. Air Force)


WASHINGTON — Amid the cold winds and snow, a ghost is haunting F-35 jets in the far north, and it’s causing pilots to divert flights and land immediately.

The good news: This ghost is digital.

In early 2018, multiple F-35A flights out of Eielson Air Force Base in Alaska were disrupted when pilots received warnings that a key battery in the plane was failing mid-flight. The pilots were forced to land as quickly as possible and switch out the battery, wiping out flying hours and raising costs for maintenance — and raising the fear that in an emergency, the U.S. would be unable to scramble its high-end fighter.

After studying the issue, the Air Force discovered the problem was a result of extreme cold entering the plane when the doors to the jet’s nose landing gear were open, setting off alarm bells, according to “for official use only” documents exclusively obtained by Defense News.

The cold would enter the plane and overwhelm the battery heater blanket, which is installed to keep a 28-volt battery running at peak condition. The battery would not shut down, but because of the cold, the blanket could not heat the battery as quickly as intended, triggering warning lights in the cockpit that the battery was going to fail.

Although the plane is equipped with another 270-volt battery that serves as the main power, the redundant system is considered vital for backup power in case of a glitch, and safety protocols dictated that the pilots had to immediately land the plane, even if the battery ultimately would have heated up.

The pilots then had to go to “cold iron” to reset, or turning the engine and restarting the whole plane.

The battery challenge “critically restricts the combat readiness” of the Air Force, the document warned, adding that it is “expected to prevent launch of mission on very cold days.” It also leads to unnecessary maintenance performed on the batteries.

The issue is particularly important for the F-35, which is expected to spend a lot of time in the coldest parts of the globe. In addition to partner nations like Norway and Denmark, who plan to use the fifth-generation fighters beyond the Arctic Circle, the U.S. Air Force has plans for the F-35 to be the core of its Arctic operations.

In a January op-ed for Defense News, U.S. Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein and then-Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson wrote that the Arctic represents both a northern approach to the United States as well as a critical location for "projecting American power, its geo-strategic significance is difficult to overstate. Key defense assets dot the landscape. ... One way to view the region’s growing importance: By 2022, Alaska will be home to more advanced fighter jets than any place on Earth.”

However, Rebecca Grant of IRIS Independent Research says there is “no way” the Air Force would let this issue scuttle missions if needed.

“The USAF is not going to accept ‘no-go’ for cold weather launches,” she said. “The F-22 and plenty of other aircraft have flown out of Alaska just fine for decades. The F-35 should have had all that sorted out in the climatic lab.”

Cold as ice
Indeed, the F-35 Joint Program Office seems to have found a solution, one that lets the flights go on, even if it is more of a workaround than a full solution.

One small step involves a recommendation that when the jet flies in particularly cold conditions — something fairly easy to predict, thanks to modern weather stations — the heater blanket be activated earlier than normal.

The bigger step involves changing how the alert system recognizes a failure, through a software change. Essentially, because the battery ultimately was going to be OK if the warning light had not gone off so easily, the JPO and prime contractor Lockheed Martin agreed to change the levels at which the warning activates.

“Bottom line, it was just saying: ‘Your battery is not good to go,’ ” according to a source familiar with the matter. "And we needed to change the logic so that the battery will be like: ‘Yep, we’re good to go.’ It’s changing the whole heater logic and how the heater works.”

How to do that without creating a situation where the battery really will fail but pilots won’t be alerted to it took “several years” of work and testing from Lockheed engineers, the source added, noting the software fix will be available to retrofit on existing planes later this year, and it will be incorporated into all new planes by 2021.

“That verification work is what typically takes a long time doing things like this, because you can’t just go change stuff because often, if you do it wrong, you could mess it up,” the source said.

Greg Ulmer, Lockheed’s vice president and program manager for the F-35, told Defense News that the issue was “identified during extreme cold weather testing at negative 30 degrees or below at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska in February 2018. The probability of the issue reoccurring on aircraft in the operational fleet is very low and with minimal impact to safety of flight or operational performance.”

Valerie Insinna in Washington contributed to this report.

 

Eagle1

Senior Moderator
Staff member
Joined
Nov 17, 2017
Messages
5,344
Reactions
2,395 241
Inventory management failures are grounding F-35 jets
12 June 2019

View attachment 8014
The F-35 relies on a key piece of software for maintenance, but that system isn't working the way it should. (Staff Sgt. Chris Drzazgowski/U.S. Air Force)

WASHINGTON — Issues with the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter’s inventory management system has led to unexpected groundings of the fifth-generation jet, and a fix doesn’t appear to be on the horizon.

Keeping track of inventory is certainly not an exclusive issue to the F-35. The first-ever audit of the U.S. Defense Department, completed in late 2018, found a running series of inventory issues, with databases featuring incorrect information that led to the department losing everything from weapon motors to whole buildings.

But the F-35 is different because it comes with a software system called ALIS — or the Autonomic Logistics Information System — which was designed in part to address specific inventory-tracking challenges identified by the F-35 Joint Program Office in a series of “for official use only” documents exclusively obtained by Defense News.

ALIS is a data system for documenting maintenance, technical manuals and ordering parts, something Rebecca Grant of IRIS Independent Research says lets the F-35 “report its maintenance status like R2-D2 talking to the Millennium Falcon.”

“But, it’s a big piece of software and the Air Force is trying to update it and shift part of ALIS to new apps,” she said.

The logistics issue, which has continued to occur in ALIS version 3.0.1, involves supplies or components that, upon installation, are not actually listed and tracked in ALIS as designed. Those require specific requests to software engineers to have data corrected in the system. While those requests can catch some problems, the issue is not always detected by the user. These requests appear to be coming in on a daily basis, a sign of how widespread the issue is.

That issue leads to a second impact: These “holes,” as the F-35 Joint Program Office calls them, do not collect data on how parts are used after installation, which means a part might be breaking down from heavy use, yet that part won’t be flagged by ALIS as an at-risk piece.

As a result, it’s less likely that issues developing from wear and tear or that there’s a lack of replacement parts will be discovered until such an issue has become an acute problem, possibly leading to a grounding of the aircraft.

The JPO document hints that part of the issue stems from the fact that F-35 and ALIS manufacturer Lockheed Martin was not using the system at its Fort Worth, Texas, facility, where it would’ve identified information gaps early on.

The company this year rectified that issue, but has yet to implement a process to check whether a supply is entering the ALIS system at its first point of potential failure: a Lockheed-operated location.

Notably, the document also points the finger at Lockheed for not establishing “a single point integrator to manage” these issues, “which is a roadblock to better software and data integration.”

On that front, the company is working on an automated procedure that should smooth things over, according to a source familiar with the program, who said Lockheed was “letting things go out to the field that was hurting” the operational pace, but that the company is “putting automation in place to prevent that” in the future.

“Part of the corrective action here is that automation within our computer systems, our software, that says to not send the part out to the fleet if it doesn’t have electronic equipment logs,” the source said. "And then it triggers a flag for us to go figure out why the supplier didn’t send that to us, so we can put it in the ALIS system so when we send the part, they’ve got the part, they’ve got the log, everything works the way it’s supposed to.”

Greg Ulmer, Lockheed’s vice president and general manager of the company’s F-35 program, told Defense News that the issue is a “major focus” for the firm, adding that the use of automation has resulted in better data vetting that has reduced these issues by 50 percent since 2017.

ALIS has been a challenge for the F-35 program from its earliest days, and there are no signs of it being fixed in the near term. The most recent report from the Pentagon’s test and evaluation office notes that users “must employ numerous workarounds due to data and functionality deficiencies”; that “most capabilities function as intended only with a high level of manual effort by ALIS administrators and maintenance personnel”; and that manual workarounds that are “complex and time-consuming” are needed to finish tasks designed for automation.

That same report noted that ALIS issues routinely cause IT challenges when the F-35 arrives at a new operating location, and that those challenges “delay the unit’s ability to start generating sorties. Often, the timeframe to start flight operation is longer than that with legacy aircraft.”


Meanwhile, a U.S. Government Accountability Office report from April says the “F-35 supply chain does not have enough spare parts available to keep aircraft flying enough of the time necessary to meet warfighter requirements.” From May through November 2018, F-35 aircraft across the fleet were “unable to fly 29.7 percent of the time due to spare parts shortages,” the GAO found.

Grant believes the ALIS issues should start to be addressed more quickly now that it resides under Lockheed Martin Aeronautics leadership, as opposed to being split across a number of different units at the company. And, she noted, there is another issue for ALIS that the system can’t take credit for: making sure there are enough pieces available for it to track.

“ALIS can’t track spare parts if the JPO didn’t fund them in the first place. No doubt ALIS needs improvements, but this is also a small-fleet management issue and yet another example of why the Air Force and Navy should take F-35 logistics management back in house,” Grant said.

“This won’t be the last time F-35 users want to update and improve that system. But remember, the F-35 is still a long way from system maturity, and the spare parts ordering problem should look much improved when 1,000 jets are in the field.”

Valerie Insinna in Washington contributed to this report.

 

Eagle1

Senior Moderator
Staff member
Joined
Nov 17, 2017
Messages
5,344
Reactions
2,395 241
A fix is coming for a problem that left two F-35 pilots in ‘excruciating’ pain
By: Valerie Insinna  
12 June 2019

View attachment 8016
A pilot from the 388th Fighter Wing’s 421st Fighter Squadron prepares to launch an F-35A during night flying operations at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, on March 26, 2019. (R. Nial Bradshaw/U.S. Air Force)

WASHINGTON — In at least two cases, sudden spikes in cockpit pressure have left F-35 pilots with searing ear and sinus pain, Defense News has learned.

But F-35 prime contractor Lockheed Martin is confident that is has a fix ready for flight test that will correct the problem, which has been known since 2014 and categorized as the most serious type of technical deficiency by the U.S. Defense Department.

“There is no indication from the fleet that this ear and sinus pain issue is widespread,” read one document obtained exclusively by Defense News. Only two Air Force test pilots using early versions of the F-35 have experienced extreme incidents of barotrauma — the word given to ear injuries that occur due to changes in air pressure.

“[The] pain has been described as excruciating, causing loss of in-flight situational awareness, with effects lasting for months,” the document states.

Incidents of barotrauma aren’t unique to the F-35 fighter jet and could occur in any aircraft. The seriousness of such events can vary widely, with symptoms ranging from sinus pain and headaches to ruptured eardrums and hearing loss.

The pressure spikes in the F-35 seem to be of a more serious nature, forcing both pilots to abort test missions and inflicting “lingering symptoms” of “significant ear and sinus pain,” the document revealed. This presents the services with risks not only to pilot safety but to its own mission effectiveness, and all variants of the aircraft are susceptible to the problem.

The F-35 Joint Program Office believes it has identified the root cause of the problem: Sensors on the outer mold line of the aircraft are detecting “rapidly changing static pressures” that, in turn, drive very quick changes of the cockpit pressure regulator valve.

While there is no workaround for dealing with pressure spikes, the problem will eventually be addressed with a hardware modification to the cockpit pressure regulation system, with a proposed design change expected in 2019, a second document states.

The fiscal 2018 budget funded the development of a test rig to evaluate the proposed fix.

“We have an update that performed successfully in lab testing and will now be flight tested for future integration, based on customer timing priorities,” said Greg Ulmer, Lockheed’s vice president for the F-35 program manager.

One source close to the issue told Defense News that the program is working to identify exactly when the fix can begin flight testing.

“My goal would be to try and get it done if not this year, very early next year. And it is mostly a scheduling issue more than anything,” the source said. From there, the fix can either be rolled into the production line or delivered via retrofit kits for military maintainers to install.

Vice Adm. Mat Winter, the Defense Department’s F-35 program executive, said the government’s program office has taken “incredible steps” to ensure the jet’s life support system is robust.

“The other elements are canopy seals, the air system, ventilation system that allows the continued flow of air — all of those have been checked, rechecked and triple checked to ensure that we do not have a design issue that will have a systemic pressurization change,” he said. Pilots have also been given training on various physiological events that could occur in the cockpit “so that in an event that there is an overpressurization, they’re fine, they can handle it.”

A history of trauma
The documents reviewed by Defense News state that an informal safety assessment concluded there is low risk of the problem occurring more frequently, and no formal risk assessment ever occurred. The Defense Department also discussed flight restrictions that would limit the maneuvers that pilots may conduct while in the F-35, but these measures were not pursued.

Mark Gunzinger, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, said it was telling that the services had not imposed flight restrictions across the F-35 fleet. He characterized the problem as “certainly distracting, certainly not optimal, could certainly cause mission abort.”

“But the fact is it doesn’t appear to be a huge safety of flight problem, and it seems to meet requirements today,” he said. "If this was more endemic, if many more episodes occurred out in the force itself, I would be concerned. But this happened in a pretty significant flight regime. It’s not something you would probably do in day-to-day, real-world operations.”

One Air Force F-35 pilot, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that the barotrauma problem wasn’t something that was causing anxiety among F-35A operators.

“I’ve been flying the airplane for three-plus years and haven’t had any issues with cabin overpressurization,” the pilot said.

While incidents of barotrauma occur throughout the military’s aircraft inventory, they are not as common or well-known in the public compared to other physiological conditions such as hypoxia, the medical term for oxygen deprivation.

According to data provided by the Air Force Safety Center, there have been 37 incidents of barotrauma in the service’s test, training and operational fleets between 2010 and 2018. Only one of those documented events involved an F-35A — an episode in 2018. It was unclear why the inciting incident in 2014 was not recorded, but a spokesman for the Office of the U.S Air Force Surgeon General said that if it was not reported to the flight surgeon, it may not have been recorded.

In terms of which platforms were most responsible for symptoms of barotrauma, the phenomenon appeared more common among older aircraft. There were multiple occurrences noted for a wide variety of legacy platforms, including the U-2 spy plane, KC-135 tanker, F-15 and F-16 fighters, A-10 Warthog plane, and C-130H military transport aircraft.

But barotrauma does not always occur due to a flaw in an aircraft. From fiscal 2003-2007, the Air Force reported 143 physiological incidents related to ear and sinus pressure issues, according to a December 2007 article in Air Force Flight Safety Magazine. Forty-three percent of those cases involved pilots who acknowledged preexisting cold symptoms or congestion, which can exacerbate symptoms.

These incidents of barotrauma aren’t the only physiological episodes that have been experienced by pilots while flying the F-35. In June 2017, Luke Air Force Base, Arizona — where all U.S. Air Force and international F-35 pilots train — temporarily stood down operations due to incidents where five pilots reported symptoms of oxygen deprivation. One additional hypoxia-related incident occurred at Luke AFB during the summer of 2017.

Investigations into the F-35′s life support systems and maintenance practices at Luke never produced a single root cause for the physiological episodes. However, a report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office laid out several problems with life support systems that were discovered during evaluations.

Aside from the barotrauma problem, the GAO noted that a breathing regulator on the pilot’s seat is failing at a higher-than-expected rate, which could increase the risk of oxygen deprivation. The unnamed supplier has made “slow progress” on improving that component, so alternative manufacturers are being considered by the program office.

When that breathing regulator fails, an anti-suffocation valve is supposed to open to allow the pilot access to air. That does not happen on a consistent basis, “creating a risk that unconscious pilots ejecting over water may drown,” the GAO stated in June 2018.

The valve’s manufacturer is assessing how it can improve the valve. But in the meantime, F-35 units have been directed to periodically inspect and clean that component.

To address these issues, the F-35 program office has made updates to change how air moves up the seat and to the pilot, Winter said. It also implemented a carbon monoxide filter and made adjustments to the onboard oxygen generating system, he added.

“Our previous software would allow the oxygen concentration to vary between an upper limit and a lower limit, and what's recommended by the air and medical community was to tighten that tolerance to keep a more consistent concentration of oxygen, and so we've done that,” he said.

Winter is confident the barotrauma problem will be downgraded from the most serious category 1 designation to category 2. However, the deficiency will stay on the books forever, as there’s no way to prove without a doubt that the issue is fixed, he said.

“The problem is that I’ll fly this jet all the way to 2077, for another 50, 60 years, and never have one [barotrauma incident], and there will be people saying: ‘Yeah, but you could have one tomorrow,’ ” he said. “There’s no way to prove the negative.”

 

Eagle1

Senior Moderator
Staff member
Joined
Nov 17, 2017
Messages
5,344
Reactions
2,395 241
The Sort of Secret $34 Billion Deal That Gives the Air Force 450+ F-35 Fighters
June 14, 2019

We have a few of the details.
by WarIsBoring

View attachment 8040

A new lot of F-35s have been ordered for the Air Force and it’s thanks to a record $34 billion deal between Lockheed Martin and the Department of Defense.

The multi-year contract covers multiple production lots, with the first set giving the Air Force 157 new jets. The layout of the deal will lower the cost of a conventional F-35A to around $80 million, a savings of $9.2 million per aircraft.

“This is a historic milestone for the F-35 enterprise, and marks the largest procurement in the history of the department,” Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition Ellen
Lord said in a statement.

According to Air Force Magazine, the program’s cost savings are incredibly noteworthy.
“I am proud to state that this agreement has achieved an estimated 8.8% savings from Lot 11 to Lot 12 F-35As,” Lord said, noting an average cut slashing of 15 percent “across all variants from Lot 11 to Lot 14.”

In all, the deal will give the Air Force more than 450 new F-35s to add to its fleet.
While the details are mostly a secret, it is known that new blocks will feature some performance and electronic upgrades, as well as a new weapon, known as the Small Diameter Bomb II.


 

Eagle1

Senior Moderator
Staff member
Joined
Nov 17, 2017
Messages
5,344
Reactions
2,395 241
Air Force F-35A squadron from Utah deploys to Germany
14 June 2019
By Ed Adamczyk

View attachment 8090
Twelve F-35A fighter planes from Hill AFB, Utah, arrived at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, this week for a summer-long deployment. Photo by A1C Valerie Seelye/U.S. Air Force/UPI

June 14 (UPI) -- A squadron of F-35A Lightning II fighter planes from Hill AFB, Utah, deployed to Germany for training and exercises, the Air Force announced.

The aircraft, and pilots, crewmen and technicians of the 421st Fighter Squadron traveled to Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, this week, after arriving at Aviano Air Base in Italy on May 23 to participate in the "Astral Knight" exercises with the Italian Air Force. The squadron is expected to remain in Germany for the duration of the summer to participate in exercises with other Europe-based military aircraft.

The training is part of a Theater Security Package, and an element of the European Deterrence Initiative. It sustains the U.S. military's rotating presence in Europe, assures allies and deters adversaries, an Air Force statement said on Wednesday.

The 421st Fighter Squadron is the newest fighter squadron in the Air Force to fly F-35As, receiving its first aircraft only six months ago. It currently flies 12 F-35A planes.

"The F-35 is a challenging aircraft to pick up and move because of the amount of equipment fifth-generation maintenance requires," Col. Michael Miles said. "This experience will allow our younger airmen to see how we put a whole deployment together and will make them stronger, particularly as we move forward with combat operations in the F-35."

 

Eagle1

Senior Moderator
Staff member
Joined
Nov 17, 2017
Messages
5,344
Reactions
2,395 241
U.S. And U.K. F-35 Jets Include 'Core' Circuit Boards From Chinese-Owned Company
Jun 15, 2019
Zak Doffman

View attachment 8196

"We are not aware of any other Chinese-owned F-35 suppliers at this time," Lockheed Martin said after the U.K.'s Sky News reported that "a Chinese-owned company is making circuit boards for the top-secret next-generation F-35 warplanes flown by Britain and the United States." British MP Bob Seely, who sits on both the Foreign Affairs and Arms Export Controls Committees described the news as "breath-taking," warning that "it's not a question of is this bad, but how bad is it?" This was echoed by Sir Gerald Howarth, a former U.K. defense minister, who warned that "we have been completely and utterly naive about the role of China and it is only now that people are beginning to wake up."

In truth, though, this revelation has been hiding in plain sight. The U.K. company, Exception PCB, was acquired by Shenzhen Fastprint in 2013, "a company based in China and listed on the Shenzhen Stock Exchange." Exception openly heralds its global parent: "The Fastprint Group of Companies provides manufacturing sites in the U.K., U.S. and Asia, trading companies in the U.K., U.S., Israel, China and main EU Countries," as well as "truly global support... for all sectors including Aerospace."

Exception was founded in 1977 and claims online to supply technology to major players in the global defense industry, including BAE Systems, QinetiQ, GE Aviation, Leonardo, SAAB and Thales, as well as major electronics players such as ARM, Qualcomm, Motorola, Dyson, Siemens, McLaren, Bosch and Philips. Fastprint invested in Exception PCB in 2013 "as part of a long term plan and has provided funding to restructure the group over the past four years. The restructure has been successful with significant improvement in operational performance on all measures; and as a result, the financial results are improving in line with Fastprint’s expectations." The company also heralds "synergy with Fastprint," delivering "global supplier and local culture."

With the ongoing conflict between the U.S. and China over the integrity and potential risk with electronics and software-related supply chains, this publicity lands at an awkward time and highlights the global nature of supply chains that even reach into the secretive aerospace and defense industry. F-35 publicity claims that "Gloucestershire-based Exception PCB manufacture the circuit boards that control many of the F-35's core capabilities... [including] its engines, lighting, fuel and navigation systems."

According to officials, the company produces bare boards, which removes access to critical design features. Lockheed Martin confirmed this, saying that "Exception PCB produces bare circuit boards with no electronics to GE Aviation," and emphasized that Exception is a "tier three" supplier. This means a component is provided to a sub-contractor before reaching the overarching program itself. In theory, this limits information flow, but there are no particular restrictions just because a supplier is two jumps down from a prime. A mission-critical system could still introduce risk.

With that in mind, Lockheed Martin told Sky that the boards received from Exception "like all components on the F-35 are inspected repeatedly at each stage of manufacture. Additionally, Exception PCB has no visibility or access to any sensitive program information and there is limited to no risk associated with their minimal role in the program," adding that, "should Exception PCB be determined an unapproved source in the future" there are "alternate sources of supply."

The U.K. MOD said that Exception does not represent any risk to the F-35 supply chain, and there is no suggestion that Exception PCB or Shenzhen Fastprint have done anything wrong.

Responding to the news, Lockheed Martin said, "we work closely with our industry partners to manage the F-35 Global Supply Chain in accordance with rigorous defense acquisition standards to ensure no parts and components from unapproved sources are included in aircraft production." GE Aviation added that "Exception PCB - a commonly-used industry supplier - produces bare circuit boards in the UK for GE Aviation and has no visibility to the design or drawing of the F-35 system."

A spokesperson for Exception assured Sky that "clear firewalls are in place" between the U.K. company and its Chinese parent. The company has been working with GE Aviation for more than thirty years and "promotes its Chinese ownership." And as regards this particular defense program, "we produce bare circuit boards only in the U.K. for all of our aerospace and defense companies and have no visibility or access to the design data nor drawings for the boards. All that is supplied from any customer is manufacturing data." He added that "all data is secured on a separate internal server and access to data is protected by passwords, only accessible by a selected few, of which have been audited by GE."

Questions will now be asked around how a supplier into the aerospace and defense industry was acquired by a Chinese company given all the restrictions that exist. Taking stock, this particular news has been waiting for a public outing for years. And it is not an isolated incident. What is clear is that the current geopolitical situation will lead to a hard examination of supply chains across a wide range of industries, with no certainty as to how problems exposed can be fixed without material economic consequences.

Lockheed Martin, GE Aviation, Exception and the Fastprint Group were approached for additional comments on the story.

 

Eagle1

Senior Moderator
Staff member
Joined
Nov 17, 2017
Messages
5,344
Reactions
2,395 241
U.S. And U.K. F-35 Jets Include 'Core' Circuit Boards From Chinese-Owned Company
Jun 15, 2019
Zak Doffman

View attachment 8196

"We are not aware of any other Chinese-owned F-35 suppliers at this time," Lockheed Martin said after the U.K.'s Sky News reported that "a Chinese-owned company is making circuit boards for the top-secret next-generation F-35 warplanes flown by Britain and the United States." British MP Bob Seely, who sits on both the Foreign Affairs and Arms Export Controls Committees described the news as "breath-taking," warning that "it's not a question of is this bad, but how bad is it?" This was echoed by Sir Gerald Howarth, a former U.K. defense minister, who warned that "we have been completely and utterly naive about the role of China and it is only now that people are beginning to wake up."

In truth, though, this revelation has been hiding in plain sight. The U.K. company, Exception PCB, was acquired by Shenzhen Fastprint in 2013, "a company based in China and listed on the Shenzhen Stock Exchange." Exception openly heralds its global parent: "The Fastprint Group of Companies provides manufacturing sites in the U.K., U.S. and Asia, trading companies in the U.K., U.S., Israel, China and main EU Countries," as well as "truly global support... for all sectors including Aerospace."

Exception was founded in 1977 and claims online to supply technology to major players in the global defense industry, including BAE Systems, QinetiQ, GE Aviation, Leonardo, SAAB and Thales, as well as major electronics players such as ARM, Qualcomm, Motorola, Dyson, Siemens, McLaren, Bosch and Philips. Fastprint invested in Exception PCB in 2013 "as part of a long term plan and has provided funding to restructure the group over the past four years. The restructure has been successful with significant improvement in operational performance on all measures; and as a result, the financial results are improving in line with Fastprint’s expectations." The company also heralds "synergy with Fastprint," delivering "global supplier and local culture."

With the ongoing conflict between the U.S. and China over the integrity and potential risk with electronics and software-related supply chains, this publicity lands at an awkward time and highlights the global nature of supply chains that even reach into the secretive aerospace and defense industry. F-35 publicity claims that "Gloucestershire-based Exception PCB manufacture the circuit boards that control many of the F-35's core capabilities... [including] its engines, lighting, fuel and navigation systems."

According to officials, the company produces bare boards, which removes access to critical design features. Lockheed Martin confirmed this, saying that "Exception PCB produces bare circuit boards with no electronics to GE Aviation," and emphasized that Exception is a "tier three" supplier. This means a component is provided to a sub-contractor before reaching the overarching program itself. In theory, this limits information flow, but there are no particular restrictions just because a supplier is two jumps down from a prime. A mission-critical system could still introduce risk.

With that in mind, Lockheed Martin told Sky that the boards received from Exception "like all components on the F-35 are inspected repeatedly at each stage of manufacture. Additionally, Exception PCB has no visibility or access to any sensitive program information and there is limited to no risk associated with their minimal role in the program," adding that, "should Exception PCB be determined an unapproved source in the future" there are "alternate sources of supply."

The U.K. MOD said that Exception does not represent any risk to the F-35 supply chain, and there is no suggestion that Exception PCB or Shenzhen Fastprint have done anything wrong.

Responding to the news, Lockheed Martin said, "we work closely with our industry partners to manage the F-35 Global Supply Chain in accordance with rigorous defense acquisition standards to ensure no parts and components from unapproved sources are included in aircraft production." GE Aviation added that "Exception PCB - a commonly-used industry supplier - produces bare circuit boards in the UK for GE Aviation and has no visibility to the design or drawing of the F-35 system."

A spokesperson for Exception assured Sky that "clear firewalls are in place" between the U.K. company and its Chinese parent. The company has been working with GE Aviation for more than thirty years and "promotes its Chinese ownership." And as regards this particular defense program, "we produce bare circuit boards only in the U.K. for all of our aerospace and defense companies and have no visibility or access to the design data nor drawings for the boards. All that is supplied from any customer is manufacturing data." He added that "all data is secured on a separate internal server and access to data is protected by passwords, only accessible by a selected few, of which have been audited by GE."

Questions will now be asked around how a supplier into the aerospace and defense industry was acquired by a Chinese company given all the restrictions that exist. Taking stock, this particular news has been waiting for a public outing for years. And it is not an isolated incident. What is clear is that the current geopolitical situation will lead to a hard examination of supply chains across a wide range of industries, with no certainty as to how problems exposed can be fixed without material economic consequences.

Lockheed Martin, GE Aviation, Exception and the Fastprint Group were approached for additional comments on the story.

 

Eagle1

Senior Moderator
Staff member
Joined
Nov 17, 2017
Messages
5,344
Reactions
2,395 241
Lockheed hypes F-35′s upgrade plan as interest in ‘sixth-gen’ fighters grows
22 June 2019
By: Valerie Insinna  

View attachment 8360
U.S Air Force crew members gather next to a F-35 Lightning II on display at the Paris Air Show in Le Bourget, east of Paris, France, on June 18, 2019. (Michel Euler/AP)


LE BOURGET, Paris — As European defense firms drum up publicity about the sixth-generation fighters they plan to build, Lockheed Martin executives promoted the F-35 as the proven fifth-gen option that could blur the lines with sixth-gen planes as it is upgraded into the 2020s and beyond.

“It’s a compliment to the F-35 that many countries are looking to replicate fifth gen and thenextending that to sixth gen,” Michele Evans, Lockheed’s head of aeronautics, told Defense News at the Paris Air Show on June 19. “I think it really does reflect on the value of what F-35 is bringing to the pilots and the battlespace. In terms of technology, we’re not going to let F-35 go static.”

During a Monday briefing, Lockheed laid out a series of upgrades that could be adopted during the jet’s “Block 4” modification phase in the mid 2020s.

Fundamental to Block 4 is the upcoming “Tech Refresh 3” package of IT upgrades, including a new integrated core processor with greater computing power, a panoramic cockpit display and an enhanced memory unit, said Greg Ulmer, Lockheed’s vice president and general manager of the F-35 program. The company intends to incorporate TR3 in F-35s starting in Lot 15, with those jets rolling off the production lot in 2023.

Also in TR3, Lockheed plans to move to an open-architecture backbone for the F-35, which will allow it to more quickly boost the jet’s capabilities with new software.
“You’ll see year over year over year we’re going to have an incremental update,” Ulmer said. “Rather than biting it all off [at one time] and waiting for a big-bang tech insertion, we’re going to trickle that out.”

Some of the modifications that could become available in Block 4 include capabilities like conformal or external fuel tanks that could extend the jet’s range by more than 40 percent, or the auto-ground collision avoidance system that is set to roll out this month — six years earlier than expected.

But other potential upgrades might lead to an F-35 that blurs the line between a fifth-generation fighter — characterized by stealth and sensor fusion — and a sixth-generation one, which at least currently is seen as having advanced network capabilities that could give the pilot control over external weapons, drones and sensors.

The U.S. Air Force has been upfront about wanting to team the F-35 with low-cost attritable drones outfitted with artificial intelligence. Attritable aircraft are inexpensive enough for to be replaced if they are shot down or damaged, allowing operators to take a greater amount of risk while using them.

While the F-35 program currently does not have manned-unmanned teaming as part of its program of record for Block 4, Ulmer said the technology is achievable.
“I think the F-35 is very well-positioned for manned-unmanned teaming. The data sensor fusion approach to the airplane as well as our relationship with our brethren at Skunk Works, I think we’re very well-aligned,” he said, referring to Lockheed’s secretive advanced development arm.

Ulmer pointed to missile defense as another potential use for the F-35.
“We’ve done some experimentation here and have seen some very strong results as well, and that will only improve with the TR3 capability of the airplane,” he said.

While Ulmer didn’t elaborate, the Defense Department is studying whether to outfit the F-35 with a weapon that would allow it to shoot down cruise missiles or intercontinental ballistic missiles. Even if the Pentagon opts not to go in that direction, an F-35 might be able to track ICBMs — as it demonstrated during simulated exercises in 2014 — or pass along targeting information to other assets that then could intercept it.

Multidomain command and control is another potential area of expanse. Again, Ulmer did not provide many details, but acknowledged that Skunk Works has conducted experiments with how the F-35 gathers and shares information, and that they have seen “very strong results.”

Asked whether Lockheed could offer an upgraded F-35 to the U.S. services in sixth-generation fighter competitions rather than a completely new airframe, Evans acknowledged that “it’s definitely something Lockheed is looking at.”
“I’m not sure you’re going to see this big leap — like you saw from fourth gen to fifth gen — with fifth gen to sixth gen. I think it could very well be an evolution,” she said. “F-35 could be the basis of what we look at, and certainly the technologies of the F-35, if not the platform itself.”

 

Eagle1

Senior Moderator
Staff member
Joined
Nov 17, 2017
Messages
5,344
Reactions
2,395 241
Here Are All the F-35's New Upgrades
Longer range, the ability to control drone swarms, and tons of secret stuff will go into the next version of the fighter.
By Kyle Mizokami
Jun 18, 2019

View attachment 8367

The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter is set to receive a series of upgrades designed to keep the jet ahead of the emerging fifth-generation pack. Known as Block 4, the upgrades include the ability to control drones and robotic wingmen, more fuel tanks to extend range, an anti-ground collision system, and classified upgrades we couldn’t even guess.

The F-35 was conceived in the late 1990s and has spent more than two decades in development. Although only recently operational in the U.S. military, it was designed at a time when some technologies, including robotics, had yet to become the big deal they are today. The armed services and the allies that have committed to ordering the F-35 are eager to integrate that new tech into their existing and future aircraft.

View attachment 8368
F-35 on display at the 2019 Paris Air Show.
Anadolu AgencyGetty Images



Block 4 will incorporate 53 new technologies, features largely aimed at countering peer and near-peer competitors like Russia and China. As Air Force magazine writes, “None of these upgrades will change the aircraft’s outer appearance, or ‘mold line.’ Instead, they are primarily new or enhanced features executed in software, which will be rolled out in stages, with updates every April and October starting in 2019 and continuing through at least 2024.” Block 4 will be 80 percent new software and 20 percent new hardware.

In advance of Block 4, most existing F-35s are getting new hardware, including new cockpit displays, more system memory, and faster processors, in a package called Technology Refresh 3.


Lockheed Martin F-35 VP Greg Ulmer shows some details on Block 4 roadmap at #PAS19. Includes unmanned teaming and missile defense capability. We reported addition of 600-gal. external fuel tanks last week. pic.twitter.com/Sece4IzcZh
— Steve Trimble (@TheDEWLine) June 17, 2019

Block 4 breaks down into the following improvements:

* New weapons. Block 4 will support the Stormbreaker smart glide bomb (formerly known as Small Diameter Bomb II) and allied weapons such as the UK’s ASRAAM and Meteor missiles, Turkey and Lockheed Martin’s Standoff Missile (SOM-J), and the Kongsberg/Raytheon Joint Strike Missile, a new missile capable of land attack and anti-ship missions.

* Electronic warfare and communications updates. The F-35 will receive 11 radar and electro-optical updates and 13 electronic warfare updates, allowing the jet to detect enemies sooner and jam them.

* Ground control collision avoidance system (GCAS). Pilot disorientation is a serious issue in modern combat aircraft. Earlier this year, a F-35 was lost after Major Akinori Hosomi, an experienced pilot with the Japan Air Self Defense Force, lost situational awareness and flew his aircraft into the Pacific Ocean. GCAS will use the aircraft’s onboard sensors to detect when the aircraft is on a dangerous path to crashing. The system will warn the pilot and, if the warnings aren’t heeded, will actually take control of the aircraft and place it on a safe flight path. GCAS would have saved the pilot and aircraft in the April 2019 incident.

* Extended fuel tanks. The F-35’s range has come into criticism in recent years, as the U.S. fighter fleet faces the prospect of long-range combat against other major powers. Block 4 would add an additional 600 gallons of fuel carried in external fuel tanks. That isn't ideal, as even minor changes to the external appearance of the F-35 will compromise the airplane’s carefully crafted anti-radar profile, but short of magically finding room inside the plane for more fuel, it's pretty much the only solution to the range problem.

* Unmanned teaming. The U.S. Air Force, and undoubtedly other air forces, are looking into the idea of pairing F-35s with unmanned aircraft to handle complex threat environments. Drones like the XQ-58 Valkyrie, which the USAF wants to buy to experiment with, could probe enemy defenses, carry jammers, and carry out diversions to allow the manned to get close enough to the target to safely attack it. Such use of drones could dramatically increase the effectiveness of a F-35 fighter without teaming it with other, equally expensive F-35s.

* Other upgrades. According to a slide shared by Aviation Week & Space Technology's Stephen Trimble from the Paris Air Show, other system upgrades include an increased ability to help shoot down ballistic missiles, probably including using the Distributed Aperture System of infrared cameras to detect the heat plume of a missile taking off. The F-35 will also get open architecture improvements, likely to help speed the integration of future upgrades, the ability to work alongside naval and ground units, and other classified improvements.

Finally, Block 4 will apparently include classified improvements from Lockheed Martin’s famous “Skunk Works,” responsible for such aircraft as the SR-71 Blackbird and U-2. Exactly what those improvements are remains to be seen, but they could include literally anything from jam-proof communications to laying the groundwork for adding a laser weapon to the F-35.

 

Eagle1

Senior Moderator
Staff member
Joined
Nov 17, 2017
Messages
5,344
Reactions
2,395 241
Here Are All the F-35's New Upgrades
Longer range, the ability to control drone swarms, and tons of secret stuff will go into the next version of the fighter.
By Kyle Mizokami
Jun 18, 2019

View attachment 8367

The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter is set to receive a series of upgrades designed to keep the jet ahead of the emerging fifth-generation pack. Known as Block 4, the upgrades include the ability to control drones and robotic wingmen, more fuel tanks to extend range, an anti-ground collision system, and classified upgrades we couldn’t even guess.

The F-35 was conceived in the late 1990s and has spent more than two decades in development. Although only recently operational in the U.S. military, it was designed at a time when some technologies, including robotics, had yet to become the big deal they are today. The armed services and the allies that have committed to ordering the F-35 are eager to integrate that new tech into their existing and future aircraft.

View attachment 8368
F-35 on display at the 2019 Paris Air Show.
Anadolu AgencyGetty Images



Block 4 will incorporate 53 new technologies, features largely aimed at countering peer and near-peer competitors like Russia and China. As Air Force magazine writes, “None of these upgrades will change the aircraft’s outer appearance, or ‘mold line.’ Instead, they are primarily new or enhanced features executed in software, which will be rolled out in stages, with updates every April and October starting in 2019 and continuing through at least 2024.” Block 4 will be 80 percent new software and 20 percent new hardware.

In advance of Block 4, most existing F-35s are getting new hardware, including new cockpit displays, more system memory, and faster processors, in a package called Technology Refresh 3.


Lockheed Martin F-35 VP Greg Ulmer shows some details on Block 4 roadmap at #PAS19. Includes unmanned teaming and missile defense capability. We reported addition of 600-gal. external fuel tanks last week. pic.twitter.com/Sece4IzcZh
— Steve Trimble (@TheDEWLine) June 17, 2019

Block 4 breaks down into the following improvements:

* New weapons. Block 4 will support the Stormbreaker smart glide bomb (formerly known as Small Diameter Bomb II) and allied weapons such as the UK’s ASRAAM and Meteor missiles, Turkey and Lockheed Martin’s Standoff Missile (SOM-J), and the Kongsberg/Raytheon Joint Strike Missile, a new missile capable of land attack and anti-ship missions.

* Electronic warfare and communications updates. The F-35 will receive 11 radar and electro-optical updates and 13 electronic warfare updates, allowing the jet to detect enemies sooner and jam them.

* Ground control collision avoidance system (GCAS). Pilot disorientation is a serious issue in modern combat aircraft. Earlier this year, a F-35 was lost after Major Akinori Hosomi, an experienced pilot with the Japan Air Self Defense Force, lost situational awareness and flew his aircraft into the Pacific Ocean. GCAS will use the aircraft’s onboard sensors to detect when the aircraft is on a dangerous path to crashing. The system will warn the pilot and, if the warnings aren’t heeded, will actually take control of the aircraft and place it on a safe flight path. GCAS would have saved the pilot and aircraft in the April 2019 incident.

* Extended fuel tanks. The F-35’s range has come into criticism in recent years, as the U.S. fighter fleet faces the prospect of long-range combat against other major powers. Block 4 would add an additional 600 gallons of fuel carried in external fuel tanks. That isn't ideal, as even minor changes to the external appearance of the F-35 will compromise the airplane’s carefully crafted anti-radar profile, but short of magically finding room inside the plane for more fuel, it's pretty much the only solution to the range problem.

* Unmanned teaming. The U.S. Air Force, and undoubtedly other air forces, are looking into the idea of pairing F-35s with unmanned aircraft to handle complex threat environments. Drones like the XQ-58 Valkyrie, which the USAF wants to buy to experiment with, could probe enemy defenses, carry jammers, and carry out diversions to allow the manned to get close enough to the target to safely attack it. Such use of drones could dramatically increase the effectiveness of a F-35 fighter without teaming it with other, equally expensive F-35s.

* Other upgrades. According to a slide shared by Aviation Week & Space Technology's Stephen Trimble from the Paris Air Show, other system upgrades include an increased ability to help shoot down ballistic missiles, probably including using the Distributed Aperture System of infrared cameras to detect the heat plume of a missile taking off. The F-35 will also get open architecture improvements, likely to help speed the integration of future upgrades, the ability to work alongside naval and ground units, and other classified improvements.

Finally, Block 4 will apparently include classified improvements from Lockheed Martin’s famous “Skunk Works,” responsible for such aircraft as the SR-71 Blackbird and U-2. Exactly what those improvements are remains to be seen, but they could include literally anything from jam-proof communications to laying the groundwork for adding a laser weapon to the F-35.

 

Eagle1

Senior Moderator
Staff member
Joined
Nov 17, 2017
Messages
5,344
Reactions
2,395 241
View attachment 8404
F-35s Armed with Laser Cannons? It Could Happen Soon.
June 23, 2019

Here's how.
by Sebastien Roblin

View attachment 8405
The United States is not in planning for integration of aerial lasers in the 2020s and 2030s. The Franco-German FCAS and British Tempest stealth fighter programs, and the Russian MiG-41 interceptor have explicitly claimed in their program materials the conceptual aircraft will be built to support directed-energy weapons (DEWs). Furthermore, the Japanese F-3 and the Typhoon’s engines will also include a turbo-generator create and manage additional electricity—quite likely to power DEWs.


On April 23, the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) tested a fiber-optic laser at the White Sands Test Range in New Mexico that successfully shot down “multiple air-launched missiles in flight.”

The Self-protect High Energy Laser Demonstrator (SHIELD), pictured here, currently exists as a bulky, ground-based demonstrator. However, the Air Force is optimistic that SHIELD can be shrunk to a small pod that could be tested on an F-15 fighter by 2021 and eventually integrated also integrated into F-16 and F-35 single-engine fighters. Some sources suggest the system may see its first flight tests on C-17 or C-130 cargo planes later in 2019.

If airborne-lasers prove as viable and effective as expected, then future laser weapons could profoundly transform aerial warfare by increasing the survivability of fighters, bombers and even tankers and transport planes to deadly anti-aircraft missiles. Further down the line, lasers could eventually serve as very fast and precise air-to-air and air-to-ground weapons with virtually unlimited magazines.

This article will first look at the strengths, limitations and implications of aerial laser weapons, then look at three aerial laser weapon initiatives currently being pursued by the Pentagon.

The Laser Dogfights of the Future?
Laser weapons are growing rapidly in prominence, from small-arms and tank-mounted laser dazzlers used by China, to ground or helicopter-mounted anti-drone and missile lasers tested by the Army, and close defense systems on U.S. Navy ships. Lasers possess the advantage of exceptional speed (it’s hard to beat the speed of light!), stealth and precision, as well as extremely low cost per “shot” and virtually unlimited magazines.

However, lasers require a lot of power to remain coherent over long distances, are subject to decreased effectiveness in hazy atmospheric conditions, generate thermal buildup that may require cooling, and—until recently—have required bulky power sources.

SHIELD is foremost a defensive Active Protection System designed to destroy or disrupt incoming air-to-air and surface-to-air missiles. Currently, long-range missiles like Russia’s 48N6 surface-to-air missile or R-37 air-to-air missile can threaten vulnerable support radar and tanker planes from over 200 miles away. While fourth- and fifth-generation jet fighters only become visible on radar at much shorter ranges, their odds of evading more maneuverable short-range missiles are thought to be as low as 20-30 percent.

Though lasers lack a kinetic “pushback” effect, even a relatively weak laser could in theory quickly and precisely disrupt or destroy the sensitive optical guidance systems of incoming missiles. More powerful lasers could damage missile flight control fins, or even thermally trigger warheads. In this video, you can see a ground-based laser destroying drones to get an idea of what that might look like.

More powerful lasers could also be readily adaptable offensive weapons targeting other aircraft and even surface targets. As lasers could potentially do double duty as sensor systems, these could allow for very rapid engagement times.

Of course, effective range, and the number of seconds of sustained “burn” required to achieve destructive effects will be important factors in determining a laser system’s effectiveness. Furthermore, a laser can only engage one target at a time, and must be mounted in such a way that it can draw a direct line of fire to potential targets.

Nonetheless, a laser would have virtually unlimited ammunition, would be nearly impossible to “dodge,” and could be useful for attempting precise, non-lethal or low-collateral damage attacks on material and vehicle targets. This last point explains why the Special Operations community is slowly working towards deploying 60-kilowatt lasers on its AC-130J Ghostrider gunships.

Lasers could significantly increase the survivability of both stealth and non-stealth fighters when operating in denied airspace, forcing enemies to expend more missiles to over-saturate defenses.

Energy weapons could also provide a badly needed close layer of defense for deep-penetrating stealth bombers like the B-2 Spirit or forthcoming B-21. Currently, the B-2 relies entirely on stealth for survivability, and lack defenses against interceptors engaging them within visual range. Similarly, laser turrets installed on transport, tanker, and support planes could give these large and vulnerable aircraft a much better chance of surviving surprise missile attacks.

If lasers are widely adopted, the current paradigm favoring stealth fighters with beyond-visual-range missiles may change as many more missiles are needed to achieve a high probability of kill. This could incentivize more aggressive engagements resulting in within-visual-range dogfights—possibly including laser-based attacks, which would not be easily out-maneuvered, intercepted or decoyed.

LANCE and CHELSEA
The Air Force’s $155-million SHIELD program consists of three components: the LANCE laser developed by Lockheed and the Air Force Research Laboratory, the STRAFE control system devised by Northrop-Grumman, and the Laser Pod Research & Development (LPRD) container under development by Boeing.

Instead of using volatile chemicals like earlier lasers, LANCE employs fiber-optic cables to merge beams of light together to generate beams with “tens of kilowatts” of power. Its modular design allows power levels to be scaled by removing or adding modules. It is described as especially efficient, able to transform 40 percent of its energy to output.

LANCE still needs to be ruggedized to survive at high altitudes and speeds, and miniaturized to fit in a pod that can prevent thermal buildup from cooking the aircraft and manage the necessary electrical loads. In fact, the latest F-35 Block 4 upgrade program includes upgraded engines that can generate more electricity, likely with direct-energy integration in mind.

In January 2019, the AFRL also issued a notice for a six-month study called Compact High-Energy Laser Subsystem Engineering Assessment (CHELSEA) to “identify most promising technology options to scale laser power by…2024”. The more powerful CHELSEA laser may eventually replace SHIELD and would be more suitable for offensive applications.

Slides from an Air Force PowerPoint presentation obtained by The Drive in 2017 indicates the Air Force would like an internal or “conformal” laser mount—that is, one that hugs the airframe without compromising their aerodynamic and radar-stealth characteristics—for its upcoming sixth-generation fighters. It also indicated plans to integrate enough power management capabilities to support weapons with over 100 KW power for anti-air and -surface targets.

A third program involves the development of a laser-armed stealth drone designed to discreetly loiter over a hostile ballistic missile site in order to zap nuclear-tipped missiles during the boost phase.

Earlier in 2010 the Air Force successfully tested a modified 747 jumbo jet armed with a chemical oxygen iodine laser to shoot down two ballistic-missile targets, but the project was subsequently canceled because such an un-stealthy plane would not be survivable in hostile airspace. The concept of using F-35s with directed-energy-weapons for anti-ballistic missile patrols is also being explored, though the idea may be impractical due to the limited loitering ability of the short-ranged stealth fighter.

A stealth drone could address both the need for survivability and long endurance. In the fall of 2018, the Missile Defense Agency handed out contracts ranging from $29-37 million to Lockheed Martin, General Atomics and Boeing to develop a “Low Powered Laser Demonstrator.” The slow-moving drone must be able to transit 1,900 miles to a target location, then orbit the area at up to 63,000 feet high for thirty-six hours before returning to base. It must also have sufficient battery to sustain up to thirty minutes of 140 to 280-kilowatt laser fire.

The United States is not in planning for integration of aerial lasers in the 2020s and 2030s. The Franco-German FCAS and British Tempest stealth fighter programs, and the
Russian MiG-41 interceptor have explicitly claimed in their program materials the conceptual aircraft will be built to support directed-energy weapons (DEWs).

Furthermore, the Japanese F-3 and the Typhoon’s engines will also include a turbo-generator create and manage additional electricity—quite likely to power DEWs.

 

Similar threads


Top