F-35 - News and Discussions

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Lockheed Martin ‘Sidekick’ development offers six internal AIM-120s for F-35A/C variants
Robin Hughes, London
02 May 2019

Lockheed Martin Missiles & Fire Control has disclosed development of a new internal weapons rack to increase the AIM-120 Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missile (AMRAAM) internal loadout on the A and C variant F-35 Lightning Joint Strike Fighter multirole stealth aircraft.

The F-35A and F-35C are equipped with two internal weapons bays that allow the platforms to carry two AIM-120 AMRAAMS, or a single AMRAAM and a larger air-to-surface precision-guided munition such as the Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM), in each bay. A Lockheed Martin internally funded development, designated ‘Sidekick’, will allow both F-35 variants to carry three AIM-120s in each bay for a total internal AMRAAM load of six missiles.

 

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Lockheed's Sidekick adds increased firepower to F-35 fighters
Lockheed Martin developed a new weapons rack that allows the F-35 to carry six missiles instead of four.
By Allen Cone
MAY 3, 2019

A pilot assigned to the 388th Fighter Wing's 34th Fighter Squadron drops a 250-pound GBU-39 bomb from an F-35A Lightning II on November 7, 2018. Photo courtesy of the U.S. Air Force


May 3 (UPI) -- Lockheed Martin has developed a new weapons rack -- called a Sidekick -- that allows the F-35 Lightning II joint strike fighter to carry six missiles instead of four.

Each of the two new weapons bays on the Air Force F-35A and Navy carrier-capable F-35C can carry three AIM-120 advanced medium-range air-to-air missiles, or AMRAAM, instead of the current two, the company told reporters Wednesday.

They are not compatible with the Marine Corps F-35B version, because of its smaller weapons bay.

"The extra missiles add a little weight but are not adding extra drag," Lockheed test pilot Tony "Brick" Wilson said in the media briefing.

The fifth-generation fighter can carry up to 5,700 pounds of ordnance.

To maintain stealth, the F-35 stores weapons internally. In "beast mode," the aircraft can carry a combined internal and external loadout of 22,000 pounds of weaponry, but doing so dials down the it's stealth advantage.

The F-35 also has external structural capacity for hypersonic weapons.

On the F-35A and F-35C, racks currently carry two AIM-120 bombs, or one AIM-120 and a large bomb such as a 2,000-pound GBU-32 Joint Direct Attack Munition. The AIM-120 bombs weigh approximately 335 pounds.

The upgrade is part of a 10-year Block 4 modernization program for the F-35. Lockheed worked with the Air Force Research Lab to develop and install the system F-35A six years ahead of schedule.

With the system already tested on the F-35A, the Navy plans to install the racks on the F-35C in 2021.

 

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One of the F-35′s cost goals may be unattainable
By: Valerie Insinna
03.May.2019

The Defense Department's goal to get F-35 cost per flight hours down to $25,000 by fiscal 2025 may be overly ambitious, officials acknowledge. (R. Nial Bradshaw/U.S. Air Force)

WASHINGTON — The Pentagon’s cost assessment office doesn’t believe the F-35 program office can achieve a “stretch goal” of getting the "A" model’s cost per flying hour to $25,000 by fiscal 2025, its director said Thursday.

“The department doesn’t see a path to get to $25,000 dollars per flying hour by FY25,” said Robert Daigle, the outgoing head of the Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation office, during a House Armed Services subcommittee hearing. “There are a fair number of studies going on right now that are going to provide some more information on that, but that’s a target and it’s not our projection for where we’re actually going to be.”

Both CAPE and the F-35 Joint Program Office arrived at similar projections for the F-35A conventional takeoff and landing variant’s cost per flying hour in FY24, with CAPE estimating $36,000 per hour and the JPO pegging costs at $34,000 per hour, said Daigle, who is stepping down later this month. (The two organizations did not provide an estimate for FY25, which is outside of the regular five-year budget cycle.)

Either figure would be an improvement from the FY18 rate, in which one hour of flight time in the "A" model cost about $44,000. However, the oldest F-35s will begin to move into long-term depot maintenance in the mid 2020s, causing a moderate rise in price during the later portion of the decade.

“After 2024, projections are that the cost per flight hour are going to flatten out and then increase a little bit because the planes are starting to age where you’re going to have to start bringing them back to the depot,” Daigle said.

The JPO has identified steps that it can take to boost reliability, decrease the spare parts shortage and increase the ease of maintaining the F-35, Vice Adm. Mat Winter, the F-35 program executive, told reporters after the hearing. Those factors make him confident the office can meet the FY24 projection of $34,000.

However, reaching $25,000 by FY25 is more of a “stretch goal,” he said. “That will be very, very hard to meet. But it’s FY19 right now, and we have a number of years.”

With the government and Lockheed Martin confident that the unit costs of the F-35A will fall to $80 million by FY20, the Pentagon has turned its eye to lowering the costs of operating and maintaining the F-35. The latest Defense Department acquisition figures — obtained last month by Bloomberg News — peg O&M costs at $1.196 trillion.

During Thursday’s hearing, Air Force and Defense Department officials used ongoing concerns about F-35 sustainability as a critical argument in favor of purchasing Boeing’s F-15EX fighter jet.

Rep. Donald Norcross, the New Jersey Democrat who chairs HASC’s Tactical Air and Land Subcommittee, asked what, if anything, Congress could do so the Air Force can buy more F-35s instead of the F-15EX.

Air Combat Command head Gen. Mike Holmes acknowledged that the price of the F-35 aircraft is falling, but expressed concern that the service would be able to buy and sustain the systems associated with the jet, like simulators and its logistics platform.

“Right now the air vehicle is out ahead of those other elements,” he said. “Producing more elements would be one part of it, but keeping up in all of those other areas — to me — would be the challenge.”

Winter added that while the material needed to manufacture each plane is decreasing, the supply chain is struggling to get parts to Lockheed’s production line on time — which increases labor costs because the aircraft can’t move as quickly through the production process.

“I’m hitting a stagnant plateau with Lockheed Martin because they are 600 parts behind on average: 600 parts not on the production line when I need them,” he said.

The shortage of spare parts also extends to the services’ operational jets, which are competing for the same supply of components as a new production aircraft.

“That supplier that generates a widget is generating a new widget for the production line, for our spare package, and we still have to repair the ones that are breaking in the field,” Winter said. In addition, the reliability of parts is still not meeting expectations, and it’s taking too long to move them through depot, he added.

In a statement, a Lockheed spokesman said the company continues to see a path to reach the $25,000 goal by FY25.

“We’ve reduced the Lockheed Martin-portion of F-35 CPFH [cost per flying hour] by about 15 percent since 2015. Lockheed Martin represents less than half of total O&S [operations and sustainment] costs, and we are partnering with our customers to further reduce costs across the enterprise to meet these joint goals,” he said.

 

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South Korea air force test flies new F-35A stealth fighters
By Elizabeth Shim
MAY 3, 2019

South Korea has begun test flights of the F-35A stealth fighter aircraft. File Photo by Staff Sgt. Kate Thornton/U.S. Air Force


May 3 (UPI) -- The South Korean air force has begun test flights of new F-35A stealth fighter jets, according to multiple press reports.
The Lockheed Martin-manufactured aircraft began training exercises from an air base in Cheongju, North Chungcheong Province, in mid-April, Yonhap reported Friday.

The aircraft made their journey from Luke Air Base in Arizona on March 22, covering a distance of more than 8,500 miles. The F-35A can reach a maximum combat speed of Mach 1.8 and can carry Joint Direct Attack Munition, a guided air-to-surface weapon that converts unguided bombs into precision-guided munitions.

The F-35A's stealth function allows the aircraft to fly undetected by radar, allowing it to better track and destroy enemy missiles.

Local news service EDaily reported Friday the training means the stealth fighters will soon be deployed with South Korea's military.
A South Korean air force representative told EDaily and other press services the strategic deployment is "on schedule."
"We have to carefully check to see if there any malfunctions ahead of strategic deployment," the representative added without providing details, the report said.

South Korea plans to deploy more than 10 F-35A fighter jets by the end of 2019 and 40 aircraft by 2021.
In his most recent summit with South Korean President Moon Jae-in, President Donald Trump had expressed appreciation for South Korea purchases of U.S. weapons.
South Korea "agreed to purchase a tremendous amount of our military equipment from jet fighters to missiles, to lots of other things," Trump said.

The Donga Ilbo reported other possible purchases could include the MH-60R Seahawk multi-mission helicopter.

Nuclear talks with North Korea have stalled since February, when Kim Jong Un and Trump failed to reach a deal on denuclearization.
North Korea also declined to attend a ceremony marking the one-year anniversary of the first Moon-Kim summit over the weekend.

 

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U.S. Marine Corps Conducts First “Elephant Walk” With 20 F-35B Jets At Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort
May 2, 2019
David Cenciotti

Marine Fighter Attack Training Squadron (VMFAT) 501 conducts a readiness exercise comprised of 20 F-35B Lightning II aircraft aboard Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, May 1. The safe launch and recovery of the aircraft, affirms the squadron’s commitment to achieving and sustaining the highest level of readiness in order to train the next generation of F-35B pilots from the U.S. Marine Corps and partner nations.

The F-35B’s “Elephant Walk” was part of a readiness exercise.


On May 1, 2019, Marine Fighter Attack Training Squadron (VMFAT) 501 conducted a readiness exercise with of 20 F-35B Lightning II aircraft aboard Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, South Carolina.

“The safe launch and recovery of the aircraft, affirms the squadron’s commitment to achieving and sustaining the highest level of readiness in order to train the next generation of F-35B pilots from the U.S. Marine Corps and partner nations,” said the USMC in a photo caption to the mass drills.

During Elephant Walk exercises military aircraft (usually fully armed – but in the case of the F-35, the aircraft might carry some air-to-air missiles and bombs inside the weapons bays) taxi in close formation or in sequence right before a minimum interval takeoff and, depending on the purpose of the training event they then either take off or taxi back to the apron.

The first such drills involving an F-35 of any variant took place in November 2018 at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, but this was the first time the STOVL (Short Take Off Vertical Landing) variant of the Lightning II took part in an “Elephant Walk”.

VMAT 501 is a training squadron reportedly equipped with 20 F-35B Lightning II aircraft and serves as the Fleet Replacement Squadron. Known as the “Warlords,” the squadron is based at Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, South Carolina since 2014, and falls administratively under Marine Aircraft Group 31 and the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing. If the number of aircraft assigned to the unit is confirmed, it means that all the F-35s assigned to the “Warlords” took part in the readiness drills.

Noteworthy, the photos released by the U.S. Marine Corps show that also the first Italian Navy F-35Band a British Lightning took part in the Elephant Walk.

Marine Fighter Attack Training Squadron (VMFAT) 501 conducts a readiness exercise comprised of 20 F-35B Lightning II aircraft aboard Marine
Corps Air Station Beaufort, May 1. The safe launch and recovery of the aircraft, affirms the squadron’s commitment to achieving and sustaining the highest level of readiness in order to train the next generation of F-35B pilots from the U.S. Marine Corps and partner nations.

The readiness exercise comes as the three U.S. services flying the F-35A/B/C variants are struggling to achieve acceptable availability rates across the Lightning II fleet. In October 2018, Secretary of Defense James Mattis ordered the services to ensure that 80 percent of all F-35s, as well as other types of tactical jets, are FMC (Fully Mission Capable) at any time by the end of this year. By the way, only 27% of F-35 fighters worldwide were full mission capable between May and November 2018, according to a study conducted by the Government Accountability Office (GAO), reported by Flight Global. Some 52% of the stealth fighters were mission capable – able to perform at least one mission – over the same period, the same study said.

So, these Elephant Walks can also be seen as a way to show progress improving the readiness of F-35 units, in a period of renewed critics and following the recent crash of a Japanese F-35.


An Italian Navy and a British F-35B also took part in the Elephant Walk. (Image credit: Cpl. Debra Sainer)

Anyway, dealing with the USMC, on Sept. 27, 2018, Marines F-35B jets with U.S. Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 211, the “Wake Island Avengers”, of the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit, carried out their first air strike in Afghanistan’s Kandahar Province launching from U.S. Navy Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Essex (LHD-2) on station in the Persian Gulf, the aircraft also carried RCS enhancers and the externally mounted GAU-22 25mm gun pod in addition to the weapons in the internal bays.

 

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Price Drop: Lockheed Pitches $80M F-35A to Pentagon
An F-35A taxis during a combat exercise at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, on May 1.


BY MARCUS WEISGERBER
MAY 07, 2019

That’s the cheapest price yet for the Air Force version of the fifth-generation jet.

Lockheed Martin is offering to come down more than 10% on the price of the least-expensive F-35 as it negotiates the largest sale yet of Joint Strike Fighters.

The company is offering to sell the Pentagon about 100 F-35As — the version flown by the U.S. Air Force and most allies — for less than $80 million each, down from $89.5 million apiece in the deal signed last September. That price point suggests the company will meet its 2020 price targets for the warplane, whose lengthy development and higher-than-expected initial costs have drawn much criticism.

The 100 F-35A are part of a block buy of three production lots of the jets — in all, roughly 450 jets. The order will include F-35Bs for the Marine Corps, F-35Cs for the U.S. Navy, and a variety of the jets for allies.

“We currently have an offer submitted to the Department of Defense for Lots 12-14 that is below the $80 million F-35A for lot 14 in 2020, per our longstanding commitment,” company spokesman Mike Friedman wrote in an email Tuesday. “This represents equal or less than the procurement cost of legacy jets, while providing a generational leap in capability.”

The latest round of F-35 negotiations come as the Air Force is planning to buy new Boeing-made F-15 Eagle fighters for the first time in two decades. While the new Eagles would replace existing F-15s, Lockheed has argued the F-35 is a cheaper alternative and offers stealth and other technology that comes standard in a more modern, fifth-generation warplane.

The proposed purchase of three batches of jets simultaneously is meant to get a better price than past years’ annual purchases of a few dozen of the jets. A 2018 Rand study put the potential savings at more than $2 billion.

Lockheed has delivered more than 385 F-35s to the U.S. Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps and American allies.

“As we ramp up production, each year we have lowered cost, reduced build time, improved quality and on time delivery,” Friedman said. “Moving forward, we are focused on and taking action to further reduce costs across both production and sustainment.”

 

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US, Canada talks underway to decide if the F-35 will be pulled from Canada’s fighter competition
By: David Pugliese   20 hours ago
08 May 2019

The sun sets behind an Australian F-35A Lighting II at Luke Air Force Base, Ariz., June 27, 2018. (Staff Sgt. Jensen Stidham/Air Force)

VICTORIA, British Columbia — The U.S. is threatening to pull the F-35 from Canada’s fighter jet competition if the ally to the north doesn’t change requirements for the winning bidder to stipulate specific industrial benefits for domestic firms.

The U.S. government is arguing that since Canada is a partner in the F-35 program it cannot request guaranteed industrial benefits for its companies.
Canada has pre-qualified four aircraft for its fighter jet project worth up to 19 billion Canadian dollars (U.S. $14 billion): the Lockheed Martin F-35, Boeing Super Hornet, Eurofighter Typhoon and the Saab Gripen.

The Canadian government plans to purchase 88 new jets to replace its aging CF-18 fighter aircraft fleet. Canada will require that a robust package of guaranteed industrial benefits or offsets be provided by the winning bidder, government officials have said.

But the U.S. government has objected to that, as Canada is still a partner in the F-35 program, which does not guarantee participating nations a set number of contracts. Work on the F-35 program is based on best value and price.

U.S. Navy Vice Adm. Mathias Winter, program executive officer for the Joint Strike Fighter, wrote Canadian procurement officials Dec. 18, 2018, pointing out that the F-35 agreement prohibits partners from imposing requirements for industrial benefits.

“We cannot participate in an offer of the F-35 weapon system where requirements do not align with the F-35 Partnership," he noted in his letter.
Winter’s letter was leaked this week to defencs analysts and the Canadian journalists.

The letter has prompted ongoing discussions between Canadian and U.S. procurement officials in an effort to work out some kind of solution, multiple industry and government sources told Defense News.

But the Canadian government will also respect any decision by the U.S. to not bid the F-35 if an agreement can’t be reached, sources added.

The Canadian government is putting the final touches on the bid requirements for new fighter jet project. That bid package is expected to be issued sometime this year.

Asked about the U.S. ultimatum, Ashley Michnowski, spokeswoman for Procurement Minister Carla Qualtrough, said feedback from aircraft suppliers is continuing to be collected by the Canadian government. That process has yet to be finished and a final request for bids is expected to be released soon, she added.

Michnowski said Canada continues to be a member of the Joint Strike Fighter program, giving the country “the option to buy aircraft through the program, should the F-35 be successful in the competitive process for the future fleet.”

Lockheed Martin Canada noted in a statement that Canadian firms have earned more than $1.2 billion in work on the program, resulting in hundreds of domestic jobs.

“We continue to provide our feedback to the U.S. government, which leads all government-to-government discussions related to the Canadian fighter replacement competition,” the statement added.


 

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USAF F-35As Will Get Navy's New Air Defense Busting Missile Amid Talk Of Anti-Ship Variants
A new warhead design and modular payload bay could open up even more roles in the future for the new fast-flying missile.
By Joseph Trevithick
May 7, 2019


[IMG]



The U.S. Navy and Northrop Grumman are making good progress on the development of a new high-speed missile to suppress and destroy enemy radars and other air defense emitters, and the Air Force has now also joined the program. In addition, recent changes to the weapon's design include a new, compact warhead seated inside a modular payload space, a concept that could open up new roles for the missile in the future, including maritime strike. The Air Force itself is already looking to turn the weapon into a precision strike tool for knocking out various time-sensitive targets on land.

U.S. Navy Captain Matthew Commerford, the Program Manager for Direct and Time Sensitive Strike weapons at Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR), and Gordon Turner, the Vice President for Programs and Business Development at Northrop Grumman’s Innovation Systems Division gave reporters the update at the Navy League's annual Sea, Air, Space convention on May 6, 2019. The Navy began development of the missile, known as the Advanced Anti-Radiation Guided Missile-Extended Range (AARGM-ER) and now designated the AGM-88G, in 2018. The program entered its engineering and manufacturing development phase in March 2019.

The AGM-88G is a major rework of the AGM-88E Advanced Anti-Radiation Guided Missile (AARGM), which Northrop Grumman also produces and that you can read about in more detail here. The AARGM-ER uses the same guidance and control systems as the AARGM and retains the primary mission of homing in on and destroying hostile radars and other emitters.

But the AGM-88G puts those electronics into an entirely new airframe optimized for high speed that is wider and dispenses with the fins in the mid-section in favor of stabilizing strakes that extend along the length of the body. The missile’s control surfaces are all at the rear and the weapon has a new, significantly more powerful rocket motor to give the added boosts in speed and range.

A more recent development is the addition of a new, smaller warhead that uses Northrop Grumman’s Lethality Enhanced Ordnance (LEO) technology, which you can read more about in detail here. LEO warheads combine a PBXN-110 explosive filler and specially designed fragmentation layer that the company says it can scale and configure to be optimally suited to taking out a wide variety of soft targets.

This offers the “same lethality, [but] less volume,” according to Captain Commerford. “That’s going to give us more volume in the airframe to do future upgrades.”

The missile's payload bay is modular, to begin with. The Navy and Northrop Grumman pointed out that this will already help support the missile’s flight test program, which is set to begin in 2021, since engineers will be able to quickly swap in specialized testing equipment in lieu of a live warhead for initial captive carries and launches.

Neither the Navy nor Northrop Grumman has given any details about the exact performance specifications for the AAGM-ER, but the older AARGM can reportedly hit targets more than 80 miles away and hit a top speed of around Mach 2 in a final sprint. While we don’t know the specifics, the new missile needs additional thermal protection and insulation for the radome to shield the control and guidance systems against the added strain from how much faster it will be flying.

The added speed and range over the AARGM “makes the missions and the targets more achievable,” Captain Commerford explained. The Navy is looking to reach initial operational capability with the AARGM-ER on both the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet and EA-18G Growler in 2023, which will give these aircraft important additional stand-off capabilities against steadily improving enemy air defenses.

The Air Force is now formally part of the AARGM-ER program, as well. “We signed that agreement late in 2018,” Commerford said. The Air Force will lead work to integrate the AGM-88G into the internal bays on the F-35A and C Joint Strike Fighters and plans to have the weapon ready for service on its F-35As starting in 2025. The missile is too large to fit inside the truncated internal weapons bays of the Marine Corps F-35Bs.

But all of these features, combined with the modular payload bay, open up the possibility the AARGM-ER will be much more than just a weapon for suppressing and destroying enemy air defenses. The existing AARGM already has multi-mode guidance capability that includes a GPS-assisted inertial navigation system and a millimeter wave radar seeker.

This gives it the ability to hunt down targets that may have stopped emitting radio signals to home in on, if they were ever doing so at all, as well as just strike a particular set of map coordinates. This more general strike capability already works against targets on land and at sea, including those in motion or that might try to flee after the missile's launch.

With all this in mind, the Air Force is already investigating turning the AARGM-ER into a precision strike weapon, called the Stand-in Attack Weapon (SiAW), which you can read about more here. Suffice to say, leveraging the AGM-88G’s performance will ensure SiAW can fill a growing demand for a weapon that has sufficient range and speed to quickly engage and destroy a variety of land-based threats, including pop-up targets, right as they emerge.

It’s unclear when the Air Force plans to field this follow-on missile. As the lead for AARGM-ER, the Navy is supporting the SiAW program, but Captain Commerford could only say that the Air Force had recently completed an analysis of alternatives on the general missile design and that “they’re still resolving what their long-term plan is.”

But time-sensitive strike is only one of the potential roles that AARGM-ER, or a derivative thereof, might fill in the future. “Some nations don’t have the resources to pursue specific weapons” for maritime strike, Northrop Grumman’s Turner said.

The existing AARGM is already an international partnership both between the U.S. and Italian governments and Northrop Grumman and European missile conglomerate MBDA. There has been significant international interest in the AGM-88E and this could easily feed into international sales for the AGM-88G in any number of configurations. Turner added that unspecified potential international customers had already approached the company specifically about a potential variant optimized.

The bigger question for a maritime strike variant might be what sized ships that customers see as the primary threats and whether the modular payload bay is sufficiently large to accommodate a warhead capable of doing major damage to those targets. While we don't know the size of the AGM-88G's warhead, the one in the AGM-88E is around 150 pounds. The warhead in a Harpoon anti-ship missile is in the 500-pound class, while the one in the Naval Strike Missile, which the Navy is now buying, is closer to the 250-pound class.

Regardless, even a small anti-ship missile with a time-sensitive strike capability could be valuable for rapidly engaging smaller ships. It could also be valuable as a means of striking specific systems, such as radars or other emitters, to disable key capabilities on larger ships and achieve a "mission kill."

If the AARGM-ER’s multi-mission capabilities really take off, it might migrate to other platforms, as well, beyond even just aircraft. In 2018, Northrop Grumman revealed a surface-launched concept for both the AGM-88E and AGM-88G, which The War Zone was first to report on.

“It’s an industry initiative,” Northrop Grumman’s turner explained. The goal is to “show how we can take that developed weapon capability in AARGM or AARGM-ER and deploy that off of other launch platforms.”

Precision land-attack and maritime strike variants could certainly add additional flexibility to this containerized system. The weapon might also be adaptable to existing ground-based launchers or vertical launch systems on ships.

All told, the AARGM-ER’s future looks very bright as an extremely capable means of suppressing and destroying enemy air defenses in the near term and much, much more down the road.

https://www.thedrive.com/the-war-zo...sting-missile-amid-talk-of-anti-ship-variants
 

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New Lockheed Concept Shows Navy F-35C Armed With Hypersonic Cruise Missiles
The missile would be a follow-on version of a weapon Lockheed Martin is already developing for the Air Force.
By Joseph Trevithick
May 6, 2019

Lockheed Martin has revealed a concept for a variant of its air-launched Hypersonic Air-breathing Weapon Concept hypersonic missile, or HAWC, as an armament option for U.S. Navy's F-35C Joint Strike Fighter, and potentially other aircraft, possibly in a maritime strike role. HAWC, which has so far been under development as a land attack weapon, is set to fly for the first time before the end of the year.

The artist's conception of an F-35C firing a HAWC derivative first appeared at the Navy League's annual Sea, Air, Space convention just outside of Washington, D.C., on May 6, 2019. The rendering shows the stealth aircraft configured to carry two of these weapons externally, one under each wing. In April 2018, the U.S. Air Force, working together with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), awarded Lockheed Martin a contract worth approximately $928 million for the development of HAWC.

As its name suggests, HAWC is an air-breathing weapon that flies at hypersonic speed, which is typically defined as anything above Mach 5. The Air Force and DARPA have said that missile will use a rocket booster to accelerate to at least that speed, after which a high-speed scramjet engine will kick in and ensure it maintains a speed between Mach 5 and 10.


Joseph Trevithick
An artist's conception of a HAWC follow-on variant for the US Navy.


HAWC, as well as other hypersonic weapons, open up the ability to conduct game-changing short- or no-notice strikes against time-sensitive and other critical targets, and do so at long ranges, something The War Zone has examined in depth in the past. Hypersonics can also maneuver within the atmosphere, following a more unpredictable flight path compared to other traditional long-range weapons, such as ballistic missiles, making it harder for an opponent to defend against them. These same benefits apply regardless of whether the target is on land or at sea.

Joseph Trevithick
An artist's rendition of a US Navy F-35C Joint Strike Fighter carrying a future HAWC variant under its wing while firing another.


DARPA and the Air Force have already billed HAWC as something of a stepping stone to more refined air-launched, air-breathing hypersonic weapon developments in the future. The program "will develop and demonstrate technologies for an effective and affordable air-launched hypersonic cruise missile," according to the description in DARPA's most recent budget request for the 2020 Fiscal Year. "These technologies include advanced air vehicle configurations capable of efficient hypersonic flight, hydrocarbon scramjet-powered propulsion to enable sustained hypersonic cruise, thermal management approaches designed for high-temperature cruise, and affordable system designs and manufacturing approaches."


DOD
Details on the HAWC program from DARPA's latest budget request for the 2020 Fiscal Year.


So, with all this in mind, it's not surprising that the U.S. Navy would be interested in HAWC and in the potential for an anti-ship version in the future. The weapon's speed and inherent maneuverability would certainly help in the development of a variant for rapidly prosecuting strikes against moving maritime targets.

Lockheed Martin's artwork depicts an F-35C carrying the weapon externally, which would effectively eliminate its stealth qualities. However, the speed and range of hypersonic weapons give them an intrinsic stand-off capability, making this a less pressing issue.

At the same time, those same characteristics make hypersonic weapons ideally suited to non-stealthy launch platforms, as well. HAWC, or a maritime strike variant thereof, could just as easily be an option for other Navy fighter jets, such as the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, underscoring the reality that fighters will increasingly be carrying outsized stand-off weapons as time goes on.

Larger platforms, such as the Navy's P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft, might find themselves carrying HAWC follow-on variants, too. An anti-ship variant could also find a home in the Air Force on that service's B-1 or B-52 bombers, the former of which are already able to carry Lockheed Martin's AGM-158C Long Range Anti-Ship Missile (LRASM), giving them a significant new maritime strike role. It might be an option for smaller Air Force

But, at the moment, any actual follow-on variants of HAWC still seem to be a ways off. At present, HAWC is in a "race" with another U.S. military hypersonic weapon program, Tactical Boost Glide (TBG), to see which will fly first. DARPA is developing TBG, which is an unpowered boost-glide vehicle, together with the Air Force and the U.S. Navy for air- and ship-launched applications, respectively.


USAF
A 2017 US Air Force briefing slide offering information on both TBG and HAWC, collectively known together as the High Speed Strike Weapon (HSSW) effort.


"We're on track for both to have flights … before the calendar year ends," Dr. Steven Walker, head of DARPA, told reporters on May 1, 2019. Even so, when "you actually get into the building of these things and qualifying the hardware, … things tend to slip," he cautioned.

DARPA's latest budget request says the current plan is for the first flight of HAWC to occur sometime in Fiscal Year 2020, which begins on Oct. 1, 2019. There are multiple flight tests scheduled for that fiscal cycle, which runs through Sept. 30, 2020.

If Lockheed Martin's art is anything to go by, interest is already growing outside of the Air Force in both HAWC and whatever variants or follow-on hypersonic missiles might come next.


 

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US Navy ends search for Japanese F-35A in the Pacific

US Navy file photo of a cable-controlled undersea recovery vehicle (CURV-21)

The US Navy is concluding its support for the search and recovery operations of the Japanese F-35A fighter jet that went missing over the Pacific, off Misawa Air Base on April 9.

A US Navy salvage team aboard the contracted vessel DSCV Van Gogh completed its mission after locating debris from the downed JASDF F-35A.
Working with JSDF forces, the salvage team deployed a US Navy remotely operated vehicle, CURV 21, to survey the area where debris was located.
Prior to the salvage team mission, guided-missile destroyer USS Stethem (DDG 63) and multiple P-8A Poseidon aircraft joined JSDF-led search efforts from Apr. 9-17, covering more than 5,000 square nautical miles.

The plane crashed during a regular training mission. Parts of the jet’s tail fin were recovered shortly after the accident. Japan’s defense minister confirmed to reporters that parts of the plane’s data recorder had been found but the recorder’s memory is yet to be retrieved.

 

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Air Force to reactivate aggressor squadron at Nellis for F-35 training
By Allen Cone
MAY 10, 2019

An F-35A Lightning II fighter jet assigned to the 388th Fighter Wing's 4th Fighter Squadron taxis during Red Flag 19-1 at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., on February 6. Photo by R. Nial Bradshaw/U.S. Air Force


May 10 (UPI) -- The U.S. Air Force announced plans to reactivate an aggressor squadron and move 11 F-35A Lightning IIs to Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada in an effort to improve training for the stealth fighter aircraft.
The Air Force announced Thursday it is reactivating the 65th Aggressor Squadron.

In addition, the Air Force revealed that Eglin Air Force Base in Florida is the preferred alternative to receive a second F-35A Lighting II training squadron.

Eglin AFB was the initial joint F-35 training site for the Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps. In 2014, the Marine Corps relocated its F-35Bs, and earlier this year the Navy announced its plans to relocate F-35Cs.

Gen. Mike Holmes, Air Combat Command commander, had recommended improving training for fifth generation fighter tactics development and close-air support by adding F-35s to the fourth generation aircraft.

The Air Force decided to create a fifth generation aggressor squadron -- the 65th -- at Nellis AFB and move nine non-combat capable F-35A aircraft from Eglin AFB to the squadron. The reactivation of the aggressor squadron and the addition of aircraft will add approximately 194 military personnel and 37 contractors to the base.

"This move will allow us to repurpose early production F-35s to help train Airmen for the high end fight," said Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson.

The 65th AS, which previously flew F-15 Eagle aircraft, was inactivated in September 2014.

"Aggressor squadrons have been honing the skills of Air Force pilots since the early 1970s," said Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein. "They provide a dose of realism in air exercises and their training value is crucial. These F-35 aggressor aircraft will keep us ahead of adversaries for years to come."

New aircraft are planned to arrive at Nellis AFB beginning in early 2022. Aircraft transferring from Eglin AFB to Nellis AFB won't be moved until newly produced aircraft arrive at Eglin AFB to replace them, the Air Force said.

In addition, the Air Force also will assign two F-35As from Edwards AFB, Calif., to Nellis AFB to join the 24th Tactical Air Support Squadron, an F-16 Fighting Falcon squadron whose primary function is supporting and performing close-air support training.

Nellis hosts large Combat Air Forces exercises, U.S. Air Force Weapons School, Weapons Instructor Courses, a test and evaluation squadron and a close air support integration group.

Eglin will receive the additional F-35 training unit if a F-22 Raptor formal training unit temporarily operating at Eglin AFB is permanently moved to Joint Base Langley-Eustis in Virginia.

Last March, the Air Force revealed plans to move the F-22 training unit to JB Langley-Eustis, pending environmental analysis. The Air Force will make its final basing decision following compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act and other regulatory and planning processes.

At Eglin, as many as 500 new airmen will be added to the installation and will be under Eglin's 33rd Fighter Wing,

"By basing the next F-35A training squadron at Eglin Air Force Base, we are taking advantage of existing facilities and training air space," Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson said.

The Air Force expects additional F-35As to begin arriving in the fall of 2021 and reach full operational capability by spring 2023.

"The F-35 is a game-changer with its unprecedented combination of lethality, survivability and adaptability," Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein said. "Bringing this new training squadron to Eglin allows us to expand fifth generation fighter training so we can dominate in any conflict."

The squadron has yet to be given a unit designation.

The wing now has 33 F-35s on its flightline and is authorized to have 59.

Stephens said an additional 24 F-35A primary aircraft and two backup inventory aircraft would not exceed the number of aircraft the wing is authorized to have.

"President Trump and Air Force Secretary Wilson have once again proven their deep and abiding commitment to the United States Armed Forces, especially in Northwest Florida," U.S. Rep. Mat Gaetz, a Republican who serves the district said in a statement, "Eglin Air Force Base has the capability to house, train, and equip our next generation of F-35 pilots. This is a tremendous victory for Florida's 1st Congressional District, and we stand proud to have them flying through our skies in Northwest Florida."

 

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Pentagon acquisition boss offers timeline, cost details for next F-35 contract
By: Aaron Mehta
10 May 2019



Capt. Andrew “Dojo" Olson, an F-35 Demonstration Team pilot, performs a high-speed pass in an F-35A on April 7, 2019. (Senior Airman Alexander Cook/U.S. Air Force)

WASHINGTON — The next deal between the U.S. government and F-35 fighter jet manufacturer Lockheed Martin is expected to be finalized by July, potentially putting the contract announcement around the time of a major annual air show.

“We continue to negotiate, and in fact we are hoping to wrap up here very shortly,” Ellen Lord, the Pentagon’s top acquisition official, said about the Lot 12 negotiations during a Friday briefing with reporters. “We would like to have a contract award in the June/July time frame.”

That time frame could match up with the Paris Air Show, held this year June 17-23. The event is set to be one of the largest global air shows for 2019. It is common for the Pentagon to announce an initial agreement before contracts are signed, and many of the F-35 partners are expected to be in attendance at the event.

The Lot 11 agreement brought the price per F-35A down to less than $90 million for the first time, and Lord expressed her belief that costs should continue to go down in Lot 12.

The Defense Department considered a multiyear contract to cover lots 15, 16 and 17, but Gen. Mat Winter, the F-35 program head, seemed to throw cold water on that during a recent hearing, saying that “to date, the return on investment provided by our industry partner in regards to a multiyear procurement does not support proceeding with this acquisition approach.”

For her part, Lord called it “premature” to discuss what may happen in those future lots, adding: “I’m not sure I would call [a multiyear deal] a goal. It’s under consideration. There are questions about the benefits of doing that as well as the negatives of doing that … any decision I make will be a data-driven decision.”

Lord also indicated the next two years of procurement plans may be impacted if a spat between the U.S. and Turkey over its future participation in the F-35 program boils over.

The Trump administration and members of Congress have threatened Turkey’s participation in the program should it go through with a planned procurement of a Russian anti-air system; for their part, Turkish officials have said the plan to procure the S-400 is a “done deal.”

Asked what impact losing Turkey as an industrial partner could have on the overall program, Lord said: “We see a potential slowing down of some deliveries over the next two years, some potential cost impacts, but right now we believe we can minimize both of those and are working on refining them.”

 

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Pentagon looks for new vendors to replace F-35 parts made in Turkey
By Allen Cone
MAY 13, 2019

An Airman piloting an F-35A Lightning II completes aerial refueling from an KC-135R Stratotanker on April 26 over an undisclosed location. Photo by Senior Airman Keifer Bowes/U.S. Air Force


May 13 (UPI) -- The Defense Department is seeking new parts suppliers for the F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter to replace those coming from Turkey should it buy a defense system from Russia.

Ellen M. Lord, undersecretary of defense for acquisition and sustainment, mentioned the search for alternate suppliers during a news conference in the Pentagon on Thursday,

"The U.S. continues to speak with Turkey on a routine basis," Ellen Lord, undersecretary of defense for acquisition and sustainment, told reporters during an update on the department's acquisition reforms and major programs. "We have been very clear that the F-35 and the S-400 are incompatible. We have had Turkey as a NATO ally for many years, they're also a very good supplier on the F-35 program. Those partners in the F-35 program are awarded supply chain contracts on the basis of value."

Lockheed Martin is the primary airframe builder and Pratt & Whitney manufactures the propulsion system.

Eight Turkish companies make parts for the fuselage, landing gear and cockpit displays of the aircraft, according to Lockheed Martin. Some of them have been producing F-35 parts since 2004. For example, Fokker Elmo manufactures 40 percent of the F-35's electrical wiring and interconnection system.

These companies are set to do $12 billion in work on the F-35 program over the life of the jet, according to USNI News.
The Pentagon has been prepared to find other vendors to supply parts because of the situation with Turkey, Lord said.

"We have for some time now been working to look at alternate sources of supply for the F-35 supply chain that is inside Turkey right now," she said.

"That being said, we continue to work with Turkey and hope that they will use a NATO-compliant system for their air defense system."

Lord couldn't say yet how quickly alternate providers could be put in place but she said stealth jet deliveries might be delayed.

"We see a potential slowing down of some deliveries over the next two years, some potential cost impacts," Lord told reporters. "But right now we believe we can minimize both of those and are working on refining" that analysis.

Fourteen countries participate in the F-35 program.

She noted its F-35 partners are in agreement that Turkey cannot operate the Joint Strike Fighter and the Russian S-400 defense system. The United States and NATO are pushing Turkey to buy Raytheon's Patriot air and missile defense system.

The Pentagon halted the shipment of F-35 planes to Turkey in early April. Turkey was expecting the first of the $90 million jets to arrive in November.

On Friday, the German newspaper Bild reported the government was about to back out of the S-400 deal. But Recep Tayyip Erdogan's communication director, Fahrettin Altun, denied these claims, posting on Twitter: "Take it from me: the S-400 procurement is a done deal."
Six NATO countries have received F-35s: the United States, Australia, Britain, Italy, Norway and the Netherlands. Two other nations that also participated in the aircraft's development -- Canada and Denmark -- are scheduled to receive the aircraft as well.

While Denmark is preparing to receive the aircraft, Canada may be headed in another direction. The U.S. has threatened to pull the F-35 from a competition for its next fighter jet over a contractual dispute. Canada is a partner in the F-35 program, but a dispute over industrial benefits may derail that work, Defense News reported.
I
srael, Japan and South Korea also have signed foreign military sales contracts and received aircraft. Last May, Israel claimed to be the first country to use an F-35 in combat for cross-border strikes in the Middle East.

 

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Bird strike causes more than $2 million in damages to Japan-based Marine Corps F-35B
By: Shawn Snow  
12-May-2019

Marine Corps F-35B Lightning IIs from Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 121 based in Iwakuni, Japan, fly in formation next to an Air Force KC-135 Stratotanker over Pacific waters. (Senior Airman John Linzmeier/Air Force)

Birds can be a hazard for civilian and military aircraft, causing millions in damages every year.

On Tuesday an F-35B with Marine Aircraft Group 12, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, out of Iwakuni, Japan, was forced to abort a take-off because of a bird strike, according to Major Eric Flanagan, a spokesman for 1st Marine Aircraft Wing.

The aircraft “safely taxied off the runway,” but initial assessments indicated the high-tech stealth fighter suffered more than $2 million in damages, making it a Class A mishap, Flanagan told Marine Corps Times in an emailed statement.

The incident is currently under investigation and a complete damage assessment is underway.

On, April 17, an Air Force F-16 with the 49th Wing out of Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico, struck a hawk during a routine landing.

First reported by Task & Purpose, a picture of the incident was posted to the Air Force amn/nco/snco site — a popular Facebook page for airmen and veterans.

“When a bird strike occurs, the remains are sent to the Smithsonian where they classify the bird and determine how it was struck,” 2nd Lt. Jasmine Manning told Marine Corps Times in an emailed statement. “The bird pictured is a Swanson’s Hawk.”

Manning added that the base “takes measures to prevent as many of these strikes as possible, as well as any obstruction that would affect a safe take-off or landing of our aircraft.”

In 2018, USA Today said that there were more than 14,661 reported bird strikes with civilian aircraft in the U.S. — that computes to nearly 40 bird incidents a day.

The Associated Press reported that there was a ramped up effort to kill birds around airports following the “miracle” landing of a jetliner piloted by US Airways pilot Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger in 2009 on the Hudson River in New York.

A flock of geese were blamed for knocking out two engines of Sullenberger’s US Airways flight 1549.
Since that incident, according to a 2017 AP story, more than 70,000 birds have been killed around New York’s three major airports as part of a bird killing program.

An Atlanta Journal-Constitution story said the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport was willing to fork over $50,900–$67,800 a year to someone willing to work on helping keep wildlife away from the airport.

The F-35B bird strike is the Corps’ second Class A mishap in less than one week.

On May 3 a Marine F/A-18 out of Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho, made a emergency landing due to an engine bay fire.
No one was injured in the F/A-18 incident.

The Navy classifies a Class A mishap as an accident resulting in $2 million or more in damages or an incident that results in death or total disability.

 

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Probe finds F-35's first crash was caused by manufacturing defect, in revelation that could affect Japan plans to buy aircraft
Bloomberg, Staff Report
May 12, 2019

WASHINGTON - The crash of a U.S. Marine Corps F-35B that temporarily grounded the entire fleet of next-generation jets in 2018 was caused by a manufacturing defect in a fuel tube made by a United Technologies subcontractor, according to congressional investigators.

The defect “caused an engine fuel tube to rupture during flight, resulting in a loss of power to the engine,” the Government Accounting Office said last week in a report on major weapons systems that referred to the September crash in South Carolina. The Pentagon told the watchdog that it identified 117 aircraft — about 40 percent of the worldwide F-35 fleet at the time — with the same type of fuel tubes that had to be replaced.

The disclosure was the first official information about the crash since the Pentagon program office in late October issued a status statement while the Marine Corps was still conducting its investigation. United Technologies Corp.’s Pratt & Whitney unit “is fully responsible” for “the propulsion system and has the lead in working” the failure analyses, according to the statement at the time.

A spokeswoman for the Pentagon F-35 program office deferred comment to Pratt & Whitney, whose spokesman, John Thomas, said the company had no comment.

Marine Corps spokesman Capt. Chris Harrison said in a statement that the crash probe is continuing, and that the results will be released once complete. The marines have replaced all of the relevant fuel supply tubes and “we continue to strive each and every day to ensure the safety and readiness of our aircraft,” he added.

The F-35 is the Pentagon’s most expensive weapons program, at a projected cost of more than $428 billion.

The Sept. 28 crash of the F-35B near Beaufort, South Carolina, was the first in the two-decade old program’s often-rocky history of delays, cost increases and technical glitches. Although the pilot safely ejected, the incident prompted concerns about the aircraft, which is being built by and sold to an international consortium of U.S. allies, including the U.K, Italy, Australia and Turkey. Japan currently plans to procure a total of 147 F-35 fighter jets, 105 of which are expected to be F-35A models. The rest will be F-35Bs, which are set to be deployed on two Izumo-class warships that the Defense Ministry plans to convert into multipurpose aircraft carriers.

Last month, a Japanese F-35A crashed off Japan’s coast, with only portions of the jet’s wreckage found since then despite a monthlong search. The cause of the crash is under investigation. The jet’s pilot hasn’t been found. Japan has said that the crash would not affect its procurement plans, and it was unclear if the new revelations would spur any change.

The Pentagon program office said last year that “more than 1,500 suppliers are on the F-35 program and this is an isolated incident which is quickly being addressed and fixed. Safety is our primary goal.”

The defective part identified in the report provides operating pressure to the engine and fuel to the engine combustor.

Aside from the defect, Pratt & Whitney’s recent track record delivering engines on time has been spotty. Deliveries surged to 81 in 2018 from 48 in 2012, according to the GAO — yet 86 percent of those were delivered late, up from 48 percent in late 2017. The delays were due in part to an increase in the “average number of quality issues per engine” — 941 in 2018 against 777 a year earlier, the GAO said.

Pratt & Whitney told the GAO that “its late engine deliveries increased in 2018 partially due to a subcontractor that did not have all of the needed tooling in place to produce more F-35B engines,” according to the report.

 

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