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Is This F-35 Flaw Even Fixable?
Lots of questions.

by Sebastien Roblin
June 23, 2019
View attachment 8406

Furthermore, the GAO reports claims that although the Pentagon spent $2 billion on F-35 parts since 2016 (including $960 million in 2018 alone), it has no unified accountability as to what that money was spent on, how many parts were acquired, and where those parts are currently located. Only a single program official had been dedicated to parts accounting, and December 2018 a spare parts database had yet to be populated with any data.

On April 9, the first F-35A Lightning stealth jet built in Japan mysteriously vanished while flying a training mission over the Pacific Ocean. It’s veteran pilot, who had sixty hours of experience specifically on the F-35, only indicated he was aborting mission before falling entirely out of contact.

American and Japanese ships and research submarines combed the seas for a month, hoping to recover the wreckage before it fell into the hands of Russia and China. The U.S. Navy alone deployed a destroyer, two P-8 patrol planes and even a U-2 spy plane. Eventually, debris from the aircraft was found including a flight recorder which apparently was “missing its memory.” Finally, in May, the Navy called off the search, but Japanese ships are continuing the search in hoping of recovering the pilot’s remains.

The cause of the Japanese F-35 crash remains mysterious, but it was subsequently revealed that five of the thirteen F-35As in Japanese service (all but one of which was also built in Japan) reportedly had to make emergency landings on seven occasions prior to the crash. While one landing was caused by a false error report, Japanese Defense Minister Takeshi Waya noted the others were caused by “systems relating to fuel, hydraulics and other parts” that were immediately replaced.

The F-35 that disappeared itself had experienced earlier cooling and navigation failures. One possibility could be systematic flaws in Mitsubishi’s F-35 production line.

Another theory is that the F-35’s historically troublesome On-Board Oxygen Generating System (OBOGS) caused the pilot to pass out from hypoxia, resulting in a loss of control. An OBOGs event led to the crash of an F-22 stealth fighter in 2010, and F-35 pilots had reported at least twenty-nine cases of hypoxia by 2018.

The Lighting experienced its first hull-loss accident on September 28, 2018, when a Marine F-35B crashed in South Carolina, though the pilot successfully ejected. Two weeks later, the global F-35 fleet was grounded for several weeks until potentially faulty fuel tubes in the F135 turbofan engines on roughly half the aircraft were replaced.

The two crashes illustrate how the components of the ambitious new stealth jet still may require replacement as new potential flaws are discovered and corrected for.

Unfortunately, this process is hampered by a crippling shortage of thousands of spare parts, as described in a new report by the Government Accountability Office. The shortfall has left only half of the brand-new stealth fighters in mission-capable condition, forcing operational F-35 units to cannibalize aircraft as they wait weeks for replacement parts to be delivered.

For several years, the Pentagon has attempted to address the shortage, but according to the GAO, these incoherent measures have so far failed to keep up with the increasing pace of new airframe production.

ALIS in Wonderland
One contributing point of failure is the F-35’s ground-based Automated Logistics and Information System (ALIS), which is intended to help schedule F-35 maintenance and transmit requests for spare parts. However, it has been bedeviled by my major flaws for years.

The GAO report notes that F-35 operators “need to…perform time-consuming, manual workarounds in order to manage and track spare parts,” requiring over 45,000 hours of additional labor per year. These flaws are leading to “missing or corrupted electronic spare parts data” and the “maintenance and supply systems within ALIS not communicating with each other.”

Fixing ALIS is taking a long time because the Pentagon must fund software upgrades as if it were purchasing physical tanks or jets, with strictly segregated pools of money allocated to development, sustainment and operations, and bureaucratic authorizations required to alter even a single line of code.

The silo-ing of funds makes little sense when software upgrades can be patched extremely rapidly across the globe, and evolved concurrently to operational needs. Thus the Pentagon’s under-secretary of acquisitions is trying to get Congress to approve treating software funding differently to implement “agile development” practices, with a focus on speed and outcome rather than crude quantitative measures such as number of lines of code.

Going Global
Another problem afflicting spare part distributions is that F-35 parts are built and used by operators across Europe and Asia, but those parts are reportedly being routed through the United States instead of being deposited to depots in regional hubs. This inefficiency is resulting in overseas F-35 operators having to wait over ten days on average to receive replacement parts, with 28 percent of parts having yet to arrive after thirty days.

This will likely to lead to complaints with foreign F-35 operators further confused by clashing protocols over who gets spare parts first based on “business rules” versus operational priorities.

Eventually, a more dispersed network of regional supply depots is intended to alleviate this logistical bind, but the effort to stand up those depots with the necessary parts is reportedly three to five years behind schedule.

Furthermore, the GAO reports claims that although the Pentagon spent $2 billion on F-35 parts since 2016 (including $960 million in 2018 alone), it has no unified accountability as to what that money was spent on, how many parts were acquired, and where those parts are currently located. Only a single program official had been dedicated to parts accounting, and December 2018 a spare parts database had yet to be populated with any data.

Civilian contractors and the Pentagon have been aware of the problem for several years, but the fixes they have implemented have not kept up with the rapidly growing number of F-35s across the globe. Furthermore, the Department of Defense’s corrective measures are inconsistent with those undertaken by contractors, reflecting a lack of coordinated strategy.

Eventually, the GAO report implies the Pentagon may take a more directly managerial role in the troubled supply chain.

The F-35’s supply-chain woes seem fixable given time and a concerted strategy to build up the necessary parts reserves in regional depots, the implementation of a more efficient multi-hub distribution network and agile software upgrades, and the phasing out of early production F-35s. However, doing so may require a shift in effort from simply churning out as many airframes as possible in favor of ensuring the aircraft already delivered are available to fly more than half the time.

 

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The F-35 Will Soon Have a New Missile to Hunt China's J-20 Stealth Fighter
June 23, 2019
Stealth vs. stealth?
by Dario Leone

View attachment 8420
Lockheed Martin is developing a new air-dominance missile for the U.S. Air Force (USAF) and Navy with significantly greater range than the Raytheon AIM-120 AMRAAM (Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile) as a counter to China’s new PL-15 weapon, a top U.S. Air Force official says.

Dubbed the AIM-260, the Joint Advanced Tactical Missile (JATM) is scheduled to begin flight testing in 2021 and achieve initial operational capability in 2022, said Brig. Gen. Anthony Genatempo, the Air Force’s program executive officer for weapons.
“It has a range greater than AMRAAM, different capabilities onboard to go after that specific [next generation air-dominance] threat set, but certainly longer legs,” he said. “As I bring up JATM production, AMRAAM production is kind of going to start tailing off.”

The weapon is initially planned to fly in the F-22’s main weapons bay and on the Navy’s F/A-18, with the F-35 to follow.

“It is meant to be the next air-to-air air dominance weapon for our air-to-air fighters,” he said.
Genatempo explained that the USAF will buy its last AMRAAMs in fiscal 2026 as JATM ramps up, answering combatant commanders’ needs.

He told Air Force Magazine the service hasn’t settled on how many JATMs it might buy in the outyears or how the program will ramp up.
“The future of what JATM looks like, especially out in that outyear increment, is very, very up in the air right now,” Genatempo said. “As far as lot sizes go, it’s on the order of a couple hundred per lot and I don’t think we have a definite plan.”

He expects JATM could be in production as long as AMRAAM, which was first deployed in 1991.

 

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F-35 transported via C-17
Published June 24, 2019
View attachment 8422
An F-35 Lightning II is pushed into a C-17 Globemaster by 96th Logistics Readiness Squadron aerial porters May 8 at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. This was the first-ever F-35 wing removal and shipment via air transport.

The $200,000 four-year project culminated in the transport of the aircraft to Hill AFB, Utah. There is will become the Air Force’s first F-35 aircraft battle damage trainer. (U.S. Air Force photo/2nd Lt. Monica Lubis)


View attachment 8423
Airmen and civilians from the 96th Logistics Readiness Squadron secure an F-35 Lightning II inside a C-17 Globemaster May 8 at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla.


View attachment 8424
An F-35 Lightning II is pushed into a C-17 Globemaster by 96th Logistics Readiness Squadron aerial porters May 8 at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla.


View attachment 8425


 

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Dutch F-35s Perform 9,000-km-long Surprise Attack on Dutch Range As Part of a “Rapid Reaction Test”
June 23, 2019
by Stefano D'Urso
View attachment 8479
One of the F-35s involved in the mission showing its weapons during a dry pass on the range. (Photo: Dutch Ministry of Defence)

The jets flew from the U.S. to Vlieland Bombing Range in Netherlands, struck their target and landed at Volkel Air Base to take part in Dutch Air Force Days 2019

On June 13, 2019 two F-35As from the Royal Netherlands Air Force, belonging to the 323 Test and Evaluation Squadron, performed a surprise attack on Vlieland Bombing Range at the end of a 9,000 kilometers trans-oceanic flight. The mission, called Rapid Reaction Test, initially contemplated a direct flight from Edwards AFB, where the squadron is based, to the Netherlands on June 12 but, due to problems with the refueling system of the KDC-10 fuel tanker, the jets had to land in Goose Bay (Canada) and wait for another tanker from Europe.

This test, part of the operational testing and evaluation phase, is aimed to verify the F-35’s ability to leave its home base and perform a surprise attack at great distance with short notice and minimal support, similar to the Rapid Raptor concept developed by the U.S. Air Force. As stated by RNLAF officials: “The approach of Rapid Reaction Deployment is that a number of F-35s can be deployed within 24 hours, self-supporting, flexible and worldwide to carry out missions, with support from tanker and transport devices. This can be carried out in an environment with a high threat, day and night and in all weather conditions. The collaboration with Special Forces is likely in that context. The aim is also to recognize all possibilities of deployment of the F-35 that may be important for the performance of Special Operations Forces.”



All the logistical needs for the duration of the deployment were provided by just one C-17: ”We have chosen to go out with the absolute minimum. We are eighteen people, the people you need for maintenance, arming and possibly some minor repairs. We also do not include our entire stock of spare parts. You are talking about tires, oil and weapons at this time. Everything and everyone fits in an American C-17 transport plane”, said Major Pascal “Smiley” Smaal.

On Thursday’s evening, the F-35s finally released two inert GBU-49s Enhanced Paveway II dual laser-GPS guided bomb and two inert GBU-12 Paveway II laser guided bomb on Vlieland range. The target, specially built for this test, consisted in three stacked shipping containers and was designated by Joint Terminal Air Controllers (JTACs) from Dutch special forces, to simulate a real attack as closely as possible. The use of laser designators and a digital information packet sent through datalink made possible to the pilots to hit their target in adverse weather and without the need of radio communications.

View attachment 8480
The two F-35s before departing Edwards AFB. (Photo: Dutch Ministry of Defence)

After eight hours of flight the F-35s, coded F-001 and F-008, landed at Volkel Air Base, where they took part in the Dutch Air Force Days 2019 on June 14 and 15 with both static and flying displays. Interestingly, the jet coded F-001 sported a special tail for the 70th anniversary of the 323 Test and Evaluation Squadron.

View image on Twitter

Frank Crebas@FrankCrebas

https://twitter.com/FrankCrebas/status/1139842736675328000

This is how the most stunning F-35 tail in the world looks like. RNLAF F-35A F-001 received special markings to commemorate the 70th anniversary of 323 TES. This aircraft is currently at the RNLAF open house but will soon fly back to Edwards AFB. @Kon_Luchtmacht @BertdeSmit

425

2:31 PM - Jun 15, 2019
 

Eagle1

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Britain's new F35 stealth jets used on operations for the first time
25 June 2019
by Dominic Nicholls,


View attachment 8487
Defence Secretary Penny Mordaunt has revealed the F35 have been used on operations Credit: Andrew Parsons / i-Images/i-Images Picture Agency


Britain's new F35 fighter jets have been used on operations for the first time, Defence Secretary Penny Mordaunt has revealed.

The first operational sorties were flown on June 16 from RAF Akrotiri in Cyprus, targeting the last remnants of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil).

The six stealth fighters based in Cyprus have conducted a total of 14 operational sorties over Syria and Iraq following a six-week training deployment in the country from May.

Speaking after sitting in the cockpit of the one of jets, Ms Mordaunt said: "I am very proud that these are now flying in defence and are projecting the UK's national interest.

"This is a fantastic new aircraft, it is amazing. It's doing so well out here on these operations... it's a really historic moment."

The F-35 aircraft have operated alongside Typhoon fighters on “armed overwatch” missions. So far the F-35s have not dropped any of the Paveway IV laser-guided bombs they have been carrying.

The new mission will be only a short-term addition to the air forces operating against Isil. The stealth fighters are due to return to their home base at RAF Marham, Norfolk, in July.

View attachment 8486

An MoD spokesman told the Telegraph that the “proof of concept” deployment of the aircraft from 617 Squadron to Cyprus had gone well.
“They have been patrolling, watching and listening,” the spokesman said, “hoovering up information” on every sortie.

Group Captain Jonny Moreton, the Commanding Officer of 903 Expeditionary Air Wing based at RAF Akrotiri, said there had yet to be any requirement for the F-35s to attack.
"We haven't dropped any weapons from Typhoon in that period either," he added. "It is not a very kinetic phase of the operation at the moment."

Britain currently has 17 F-35Bs - the short take-off and vertical landing variant of the fighters - and has committed £9.1 billion to buy the first 48 aircraft.

The MoD has said it will buy a total of 138 jets, but no decision has yet been taken on which variants will make up the remaining batch.

 

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All you need to know about F-35 jet, Eurofighter Typhoon and Operation Shader
25 June 2019
by Press Association 2019
View attachment 8490
Two F35-B Lightning stealth jets

The supersonic F-35B Lightning II is the cutting-edge aircraft which has taken part in active British operations for the first time.

With six of the jets currently based at RAF Akrotiri in Cyprus, they will spend the next week continuing to fly in support of UK Typhoons as part of efforts to target the remains of Islamic State (IS).

Here are some facts and figures behind the cutting-edge F-35 warplanes, Eurofighter Typhoon jets and the wider Operation Shader.

– Operation Shader

  • 1,700 strikes
  • Carried out by RAF jets alongside Reaper drones in Operation Shader

In 2014, Islamic State blitzed across vast swathes of Syria, seizing Raqqa, before spreading into northern and western Iraq, capturing Mosul and even advancing to the edges of Baghdad. Since then, the US-led 80-member global coalition has worked to destroy the extremists – seeing Mosul liberated in July 2017 and Raqqa in October 2017 as a result of the efforts – with Iraq declaring the country liberated in December 2017.

Britain’s contribution, known as Operation Shader, has involved air strikes on key IS targets, the training of local forces and the provision of military equipment.

RAF jets alongside Reaper drones have carried out more than 1,700 strikes using 4,300 weapons, as well as surveillance and reconnaissance missions since efforts to eradicate the group began. By March this year, the group which formerly controlled a territory the size of the UK, was reduced to a sliver of land in Baghouz before their territorial defeat was declared.

– F-35
View attachment 8491

he jet measures 15.6 metres (51.2ft) in overall length, has a wingspan of 10.7 metres (35ft) and a height of 4.36 metres (14.3ft). It has a top speed of 1.6 Mach or 1,200mph and a Max G rating of 7g. Maximum thrust tops 40,000lbs and the jet has a range of 900 nautical miles.

Lockheed Martin, the American company building the jets, describes its stealth capabilities as “unprecedented”. Its airframe design, advanced materials and other features make it “virtually undetectable to enemy radar”.

The F-35B can launch from land and sea. Britain’s jets will take off from and land on the behemoth aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth in the autumn. Some of the air-to-surface weapons and ordnance the jets can carry include the AIM-120 AMRAAM and Paveway IV precision-guided bombs.

– Eurofighter Typhoon
View attachment 8492
A Eurofighter Typhoon (Joe Giddens/PA)

With a maximum speed of Mach 1.8, it was first deployed in combat in Libya in 2011 and four years later became a key feature in Operation Shader. The jets measure 15.9 metres (52.4ft) in length, are 5.2 metres (17.4ft) in height and have a wingspan of 11 metres (36.4ft).

There are currently eight of the jets based at RAF Akrotiri, used in the air campaign against IS in Iraq and Syria. The jet is used for Britain’s Quick Reaction Alert squadrons based at RAF Lossiemouth, Scotland, and RAF Coningsby, Lincolnshire, with a presence also in the Falkland Islands.

Typhoons are armed with an internal 27mm Mauser cannon, plus ASRAAM air-to-air missiles, as well as Enhanced Paveway II and Paveway IV. Earlier this year, the jet began carrying and using Storm Shadow and Brimstone bombs, as well as Meteor air-to-air missiles.

 

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Pratt and Whitney to build spare F-35A/C engines in $358.5M contract
July 1, 2019
By Ed Adamczyk

View attachment 8933
A Pratt and Whitney F135-PW-100 engine, used on the F-35 Lightning II fighter plane, undergoes testing. Photo courtesy of Pratt and Whitney Military Engines/United Technologies Inc.

July 1 (UPI) -- Pratt and Whitney Military Engines will build spare engines for F-35 Lightning II fighter planes in a $358.5 million contract, the Defense Department announced.

The contract, announced Friday by the Pentagon, is a modification of a prior deal calling for production of eight F135-PW-100 propulsion systems, the engine used by the F-35A/C variants, and a single F135-PW-600 for the Global Spares Pool.

The 600 engine is more complex and costlier than the 100 version, and is used on the Marine Corps' F-35B short take-off and vertical landing variant of the plane.

The Global Spares Pool serves as a replacement parts facility for the U.S. military branches, non-Defense Department agencies and Foreign Military Sales customers. All three types of customer will share in the cost of the contract, with the U.S. Air Force contributing 34 percent, the U.S. Marine Corps 23 percent, the U.S. Navy seven percent, non-Defense Department agencies 28 percent and foreign customers eight percent.

Work will be largely performed at Pratt and Whitney's East Hartford, Conn., facility, with additional work at facilities in Indianapolis, Ind., and in Bristol, U.K., with a completion date of June 2022.

The Pentagon announced two other contracts related to F-35 development in June. Pratt & Whitney was awarded a $3.2 billion contract on June 1 to supply 233 propulsion systems for F-35 fighter planes. Over half the engines will go to non-U.S. militaries.

Days later Lockheed Martin announced that the company and the U.S. Defense Department reached a "handshake agreement" on a $34 billion contract to produce three future lots of F-35 Lightning II fighter planes at the lowest cost in the program's history. In the largest F-35 procurement yet, Lockheed Martin will produce 478 F-35s, with the company estimating that the F-35A expected to eventually cost less than $80 million per jet.

 

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Norway To Spend 10,000 Working Hours To Estimate Cost Of F-35s After Newspaper Alleges Price Gap of $1.9 Billion
02 July 2019

View attachment 8944
Lockheed Martin F-35 fighter

A core team consisting of ten people will be assigned 10,000 working hours to estimate the price of the F-35 aircraft after a Norwegian newspaper alleged in April that the government inflated the cost of the fighters by NOK 16 billion (almost $1.9 billion).

Frank Bakke-Jensen, the country’s defense minister was put to task by Nowegian parliament's control and constitutional committee to evaluate the price of the fighters based on the current dollar exchange rate after the newspaper Bergens Tidende, claimed that the government paid nearly $2 billion extra over 2012’s estimation of the jets.

“The whole process is time-consuming (about 5 months). It involves both Norwegian and American actors. The resources for carrying out the annual uncertainty analyses are estimated at about 10,000 working hours” Bakke Jensen wrote back, according to Dagbladet newspaper.

According to Jensen, this task requires a core team of about ten people working throughout the year, while the most labour-intensive analysis takes about 30 people.
“Uncertainty analyses require a lot of time and effort. It also requires cooperation from the Ministry of Defence, the Air Force, the Defence Research Institute, the Defence

Logistics Organisation, and the Defence Material Agency,” he explained.
“We will submit the parliament an updated estimate,” he said, adding that it was not possible to do that before next year's budget is ready.

According to Sputnik, the operating costs for the F-35 is about NOK 110,000 ($13,000) per hour. Complete education for a pilot costs about NOK 60 million ($7 million).
Norway has placed an order for 52 Lockheed Martin jets to replace its ageing F-16 fleet.

The selection of the fighter was announced in November 2008 by the then Prime Minister of Norway, Jens Stoltenberg.
The country has thus far received nine F-35 aircraft, with an average price tag of NOK 1.375 billion (roughly $160 million) apiece.

 

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US Awards Lockheed $348M for F-35 Tooling, Test Support
July 3, 2019

View attachment 9005
F-35 combat jet

Lockheed Martin has won a $348 million modification contract for production non-recurring, special tooling and special test equipment in support of initial production Lot 12 F-35 Lightning II aircraft for the Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps, non-US Department of Defense (DoD) partners and foreign military sales (FMS) customers.

The Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II is a family of single-seat, single-engine, all-weather, stealth, fifth-generation, multirole combat aircraft. It has three main models: the conventional take-off and landing F-35A (CTOL), the short take-off and vertical-landing F-35B (STOVL), and the catapult-assisted take-off but arrested recovery, carrier-based F-35C (CATOBAR).

Potential new weapons include the B-61 nuclear bomb, Small Diameter Bomb II, the JSOW-C and the AIM-9X Block II air-to-air missile and weapons integrated for European F-35 operators such as the Meteor missile made by MBDA. In addition, BAE Systems has been contracted to provide the ASQ-239 electronic warfare suite, which combines a 360 degree electromagnetic sensor to detect nearby threats with infrared and radar countermeasures.

Work is expected to be completed in August 2022, the US Department of Defense said in a statement Tuesday.

 

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In the course of F-35 program at lest two international F-35 partners issued an ultimatum to the US Defense Department to find a way to restrict US access to foreign militaries' sovereign data, or risk losing those countries as a customer. The core issue is in Automatic Logistics Information System, known as ALIS. The ALIS system is used at all stages of flying and sustaining the Joint Strike Fighter. The system is used to plan and defrief missions, order spare parts, walk maintainers through repairs and view technical data and work orders. In the midst of 2018, the Defense Department awarded a 26$ million contract to Lockheed Martin to develop and test an 'ALIS Sovereign Data Management' system that will allow foreign partnerts to more tightly control and protect their own data. The new data guard allows a foreign military to manage aspects of its data that is sent to the F-35 Support Intergation team, basically allowing a partner nation to review and block data leaving the country.
 

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Lockheed awarded $21.5M for tooling, retrofits on F-35s
July 10, 2019
By Ed Adamczyk

View attachment 9314
The Defense Department announced a $21.5 million contract with Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co. to make unspecified modifications to the F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter plane. File Photo by Julianne Showalter/U.S. Air Force/UPI | License Photo


July 10 (UPI) -- The Pentagon announced a $21.5 million contract with Lockheed Martin for modifications to the F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter plane.

The contract with Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co., announced on Tuesday, is a modification of a prior contract, and calls for modification kits, special tooling and installation labor to retrofit equipment to the aircraft.

The nature or use of the equipment was not identified by the Defense Department, but Lockheed received a similar contract in May for modification kits, tooling and services for retrofits on the F-35.

Retrofits often refer to fixes made to aircraft after issues are discovered in testing. Contracts have been issued by the Pentagon periodically in the last few years to cover retrofits on the fifth generation aircraft as it has gone through testing. The aircraft is not yet in full production, but has achieved initial operating capability and has been deployed by the U.S. military.

Aircraft of the U.S. Marine Corps, the U.S. Navy, the U.S. Air Force, non-Defense Department participants and Foreign Military Sales customers are involved.

The purchase costs will be divided between those agencies according to the percentage of work involved. The Marines will underwrite 33 percent of the contract, the Navy 30 percent and the Air Force 22 percent. Work will be performed at Lockheed Martin's Fort Worth, Texas, facility, with a completion date of May 2024.

The versatile combat plane was introduced in 2015. Beside the United States, the plane is operational or has been ordered by Australia, Belgium, Denmark, Israel, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, Norway, the United Kingdom, South Korea and Turkey.

 

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USAF's Mountain Home AFB stays busy with F-35A fighter plane rotations
By Ed Adamczyk

View attachment 9332
An F-35A fighter plane from Hill AFB, Utah, refuels at its new home at Mountain Home AFB, Idaho, on June 20, 2019. Photo by A1C Andrew Kobialka/U.S. Air Force/UPI

(UPI) -- Idaho's Mountain Home Air Force Base is now the location of the largest off-station operation of F-35 II fighter planes, the U.S. Air Force noted on Friday.

Seventeen of the planes arrived from Hill AFB, Utah, as the Utah base undergoes runway repairs, and seven more planes in the squadron are expected soon as the aircraft are built by Lockheed Martin and delivered. Two other squadrons are currently on duty at Al Dhara Air Base in the United Arab Emirates, and in Europe with the Theater Security Package.

The European operation has been centered since June at Aviano Air Base in Italy, where maintenance personnel of F-35A fighter planes have improved versatility under an innovative new program. Blended Operational Lightning Technicians, or BOLTs, from Hill AFB, Utah, are currently made their 388th Fighter Wing the first to be qualified in six different aspects of F-35A maintenance.

In May, the Air Force deployed F-35A planes to the Middle East for the first time.

The challenge for the 34th Fighter Squadron at Mountain Home AFB, in addition to daily flying and maintenance, has been the balance of personnel and training, since required training, like F-35A simulators and maintenance aids, are only available at Hill AFB.

"We've been rotating people on the ops side every one or two weeks and less frequently on the maintenance side," said Lt. Col. Christopher White, 34th FS director of operations. "It's been a challenge, but we're ready if we need to break glass."

 

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