F-35 - News and Discussions

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Turkey works to fulfill commitments on S-400, F-35: Defense minister
MALATYA- Anadolu Agency
May 18 2019

Turkey is trying to fulfill its commitments and responsibilities both on S-400 air defense system and F-35 fighter jet, the country’s defense minister said on May 17.

“On the issues of both S-400 and F-35, we are showing efforts to completely fulfill whatever our commitments and responsibilities are without flaws,” Hulusi Akar said during his visit to an airbase in eastern Malatya province where F-35 jets will be deployed.

"We are setting up an area for the activities of F-35 here,” Akar said, adding that some parts of the jets were being produced in Turkey.

Tensions between the U.S. and Turkey have reached a fever pitch in recent months with Turkey set to begin receiving the advanced S-400 surface-to-air missile system from Russia.

U.S. officials have suggested Turkey buy the U.S. Patriot missile system rather than the S-400, arguing it is incompatible with NATO systems and is a threat to the F-35 fifth-generation stealth aircraft.

Turkey responded it was the U.S. refusal to sell it Patriots that led it to seek other sellers, adding that Russia offered a better deal, including technology transfers.

 

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Why America and a Key Ally are Going to 'War' Over the F-35
May 13, 2019

The kerfuffle over industrial workshare is just the latest embarrassment for the Canadian government as it struggles to acquire new fighters.

Canada’s faltering effort to buy a new fighter jet for its beleaguered air force has run into yet another serious obstacle.

The Canadian government in May 2019 backed down from a requirement that the supplier of the Royal Canadian Air Force’s new fighter also channel work on the planes to Canadian companies.

The United States had objected to the requirement and threatened to pull the Lockheed Martin-made F-35 stealth fighter from the Canadian competition to replace 85 aging F/A-18A/B Hornet fighters with as many as 88 new jets.

The F/A-18s in RCAF service are known as CF-18s.

Reciprocal industrial benefits are common in fighter competitions. The idea is that a company that builds airplanes for a foreign country also should ensure that companies in that country get subcontracts to supply parts to the main production effort. That way, a government tender to a foreign company also supports some domestic jobs.

But there was a catch as Ottawa relaunched its $19-billion competition to the replace the 1980s-vintage F/A-18s, which lack key upgrades and rapidly are becoming obsolete, according to the Canadian government’s own auditors. The RCAF wanted the F-35 to compete in the contest alongside Sweden’s Saab Gripen, the European Eurofighter and the F/A-18E/F, a radically enhanced Hornet, from American firm Boeing.

But Canada is already a partner in the international F-35 program. After paying $500 million into the plane’s development effort, Canada became eligible for portions of the production process. Canadian aerospace companies over the past 20 years have received contracts worth no less than $1.5 billion to build parts for the F-35.

The F-35 program office in the United States claims it apportions work on F-35 production strictly by merit. In requiring that the F-35 program guarantee to Canadian firms a certain amount of work as a term of competing for the RCAF fighter contract, Ottawa violated its agreement with the F-35 program.

After Washington threatened to pull the F-35 from the Canadian contest, Ottawa backed down. “The Canadian government will allow a ‘flexible approach’ in determining industrial benefits for the new fighter jet program, making way for Lockheed Martin and the U.S. government to bid on the project,” National Post reported.

The kerfuffle over industrial workshare is just the latest embarrassment for the Canadian government as it struggles to acquire new fighters.

In 2010, Canada's Conservative Party government announced plans to acquire 65 new F-35 stealth fighters by 2020. But the government never fairly compared the F-35 to rival fighter types such as the Eurofighter Typhoon, the Auditor General of Canada concluded in a 2018 report.

"National Defense did not manage the process to replace the CF-18 fleet with due diligence."

In 2015, Liberal Party candidate Justin Trudeau made the F-35 a major issue in his campaign for prime minister. Trudeau won. And in 2017, Ottawa backed off its proposal to purchase F-35s and, instead, launched the current competition to acquire 88 fighters.

The aircraft would enter service in 2032, meaning the old Hornets would have to continue flying 12 years longer than the government originally planned. Ottawa briefly considered acquiring 18 F/A-18E/Fs from Boeing in order to bolster the early-model Hornets, but the government canceled the plan during a U.S.-Canada trade dispute in 2017.

Canada was left with its original Hornets. In December 2017, the government announced it would spend around $500 million buying up to 25 1980s-vintage F/A-18s that Australia was declared surplus as it acquired its own fleet of new F-35s.

But the government has no plan to keep its Hornets combat-ready as they enter their fourth and even fifth decade of service." We found that the CF-18 had not been significantly upgraded for combat since 2008, in part because [the Department of] National Defense expected a replacement fleet to be in place by 2020," the government auditors found.

Further delays could be the worst case scenario for the Canadian air force. It badly needs new fighters.

 

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F-15EX vs. F-35A
May 2019
John A. Tirpak
Editorial Director


Two jets from different eras, with different missions, strengths, and weaknesses, face off in a battle for today’s funds.


The F-35 Lightning has been the Air Force’s sole new fighter program since 2009, when the F-22 Raptor program was prematurely terminated. While behind schedule, the program has been a top Air Force priority for more than a decade and until recently, was expected to remain USAF’s only fighter program until a future capability, still undefined, comes online.

Now the F-35 faces a new challenge from an old jet design, a variant of the F-15 Strike Eagle; an airplane from an earlier era, built for a different mission. Though the Air Force denies it, the two jets are competing for inevitably limited dollars within the service’s fighter portfolio.

The Air Force’s fiscal 2020 budget request includes $1.1 billion to buy the first eight of a planned 144 F-15EX aircraft. The new airplanes are very similar to the export versions now being built for Qatar. The F-15EX is a two-seat fighter that can be flown by one or two aviators and is meant to replace F-15Cs and Ds that are reaching the end of their service lives.

Under the plan, the Air Force would receive two F-15EX airplanes in 2022, six more in 2023, and a total of 80 airplanes in the next five years. Separately, the 2020 budget request also includes $949 million to upgrade existing F-15s.

Adding new F-15s was not an Air Force idea, but instead came out of the Pentagon’s Cost and Program Evaluation office, or CAPE, and was endorsed by former Defense Secretary James Mattis. While the Air Force’s long-held position has been to invest only in fifth generation fighter technology, it has defended the plan to buy new F-15s as a way to maintain fighter capacity, given the aging of the F-15C fleet and the slow pace of F-35 acquisitions.

While the Air Force is adamant that buying F-15EXs will not reduce the requirement to build 1,763 F-35s, history and the Air Force’s own budget request suggests otherwise. The 2020 budget submission shows the Air Force buying 24 fewer F-35s over the next five years compared to last year’s plan.

An Advanced F-15 during system and flight control testing in Palmdale, Calif. Photo: Boeing

The opening for the F-15EX results from the age and condition of today’s F-15Cs. Designed as air superiority fighters and first fielded in the 1970s, the F-15Cs were planned to have retired by now. But the premature termination of the F-22 after acquiring 186 aircraft—less than half the planned production—compelled the Air Force to extend their service. Now, key structural components are reaching the end of their engineered service life—so much so that many F-15Cs must operate today under significant speed and G-loading restrictions.

The Air Force’s arguments for the F-15EX turn on preserving capacity. The F-15Cs will age out of the inventory faster than new F-35s can come on line, reducing the available fighter fleet at a time when the Air Force argues it’s already seven squadrons short of the 62 officials say they need to meet the National Defense Strategy.

The F-15EX, USAF argues, is essentially an in-production aircraft. It has upward of 70 percent parts commonality with the F-15C and E already in USAF service and can use almost all the same ground equipment, hangars, simulators and other support gear as the Eagles now in service. At a unit price roughly comparable to that of the F-35, F-15 squadrons could transition to the F-15EX in a matter of weeks, whereas converting pilots, maintainers, facilities and equipment to the F-35 takes many months, the Air Force says.

The F-15EX, though, is a fourth generation aircraft which lacks the stealth characteristics and sensor fusion of the F-35 and F-22 and therefore won’t be able to survive against modern air defenses for very much longer. USAF has said that 2028 is probably the latest the jet could conceivably operate close to contested enemy airspace. However, CAPE and Air Force officials see viable continuing missions for the F-15EX in homeland and airbase defense, in maintaining no-fly zones where air defenses are limited or nonexistent, and in delivering standoff munitions.

While the Air Force has maintained since 2001 that it will not buy any “new old” fighters, and that it needs to transition as quickly as possible to an all-5th-gen force, proponents argue that buying F-15s and F-35s concurrently would fill gaps in the fighter fleet more rapidly. Moreover, USAF leaders, defending the new F-15 buy, have said that the F-35 still hasn’t proven it can be maintained at the advertised cost (comparable to the F-16, at about $20,000 per hour) and the service prefers to wait to make large bulk buys of the airplane after the Block 4 version starts rolling off the assembly line in the mid-2020s. This approach, they say, will also avoid spending large amounts of money to update earlier versions of the F-35 to the Block 4 configuration.

An F-35 performs a weapons bay door pass during Demonstration Team training over Luke AFB, Ariz. Photo: SrA. Alexander Cook

This isn’t the first time the Air Force has considered buying new F-15s, but the F-15EX isn’t the same as upgraded models previously offered by the jets’ maker, Boeing. The most recent offerings would have required extensive development work. In 2009, Boeing proposed the F-15 “Silent Eagle,” which would have added stealth characteristics. That jet would have carried weapons internally in conformal stations and featured canted vertical fins and surface treatments to reduce its radar signature. Boeing offered another concept, the “Advanced” F-15, or F-15 2040C, last year. That jet would have had a substantially increased payload and advanced avionics.

Instead, the F-15EX requires almost no new development, would be able to execute a test program very quickly, and requires minimal additional development.

Air Force officials say one potential mission for the F-15EX would be carrying “outsize” munitions, such as hypersonic missiles, and as a possible standoff weapons magazine working in conjunction with the F-22.

The F-35 and F-15EX were designed in different eras for different missions.

The F-15C was designed for air superiority in the pre-stealth era; the F-35 to be the battlefield “quarterback,” gathering vast amounts of information from behind enemy lines while executing stealthy strikes and picking off enemy fighters. Yet, as Congress decides how to invest in future aircraft, comparisons are necessary as the two planes compete for resources. Click here for a side-by-side comparison.


 

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Poland to buy F-35 fighter jets from the US
Sunday, May 19, 2019




Polish Deputy Minister of Defense Wojciech Skurkiewicz revealed plans to purchase two batches of American F-35 fighters.

According to him, the first aircraft will enter the service of the Polish army by2026. The Minister called this decision a turning point and crucial for the Polish Air Force.

"This is a crucial decision that will raise our Air Force to a higher level. The first squadron of F-35 aircraft will be purchased by 2026, the second squadron - after 2026," — the PAP Agency quotes the Deputy Minister.

Polish military also intend to buy a batch of 32 attack helicopters by 2026.



 

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America's Sort-Of-New F-35 Stealth Fighter Is One Tough Jet
May 17, 2019
A killer in the sky just keeps getting better and better.
by Kris Osborn


“The physical pieces of the plane are moving in a good direction. Most of what we have left to do is software. The department (DoD) has not historically been good at software development. That will take a little longer. I cannot imagine building anything for the Air Force that is not software intensive,” Roper said.

The Air Force has begun early testing, software development and weapons integration for its upcoming Block 4 variant of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, an emerging model intended to give the multi-role fighter a new dimension of attack mission possibilities, service leaders said.

The new version, to emerge in the early 2020s, will add new long-range precision-tracking weapons such as the Small Diameter Bomb II and also integrate a computer-generated automatic ground collision avoidance technology.

“The next step for F-35 weapons integration will be to address the weapon requirements within Block 4. Integration of the Small Diameter Bomb II has already begun, and flight test is scheduled to start as early as 2019,” Capt. Emily Grabowski, Air Force Spokeswoman, told Warrior Maven in a statement.

The current consensus among senior Pentagon weapons developers holds that, at the moment, the F-35 is the most capable 5th generation plane in the world. Maintaining this edge, however, is anticipated to quickly become more and more difficult now that both Russia and China are building 5th-gen stealth fighters.

“Block 4 is important with the national defense strategy to make sure we are modernizing the plane to keep it dominant on the battlefield. We are close to knowing the strategy for how to go after it,” Dr. Will Roper, Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics, the F-35, told a group of reporters.

While the applied impact of Block 4 will incorporate a range of mission-expanding technologies, much of the ongoing preparation work is in the realm of software development, Roper said.

“The physical pieces of the plane are moving in a good direction. Most of what we have left to do is software. The department (DoD) has not historically been good at software development. That will take a little longer. I cannot imagine building anything for the Air Force that is not software intensive,” Roper said.

The Block 4 initiative is part of a long range trajectory planned for the F-35 described by Pentagon developers as C2D2 - Continuous Capability Development and Delivery. The idea, officials say, is to position the multi-role fighter such that it can consistently accommodate new weapons, stealth materials, sensors and guidance technology as it becomes available.

“We own today’s fight,” said Lt. Col. Tucker Hamilton, F-35 Test Director, Edwards AFB, told reporters. However, Tucker went on to say that, in the absence of aggressive modernization, sustainment and various improvement efforts, this will no longer remain the case.

The SDB II, described as a key element of Block 4, is a new air-dropped weapon able to destroy moving targets in all kinds of weather conditions at ranges greater than 40-miles, Air Force and Raytheon officials said.

It is designed to destroy moving targets in all kinds of weather. GPS and laser-guided weapons such as Joint Direct Attack Munitions have been around for decades, however, they have primarily been designed for use against fixed or stationary targets.

While the Air Force currently uses a laser-guided bomb called the GBU-54 able to destroy moving targets, the new SDB II will be able to do this at longer ranges and in all kinds of weather conditions. In addition, the SDB II is built with a two-way, dual-band data link which enables it to change targets or adjust to different target locations while in flight, Raytheon developers told Warrior Maven.

The Small Diameter Bomb II (SDB II ), which has already completed a series of wind tunnel tests, can destroy moving targets in all weather conditions at ranges greater than 40 miles -- a Raytheon statement said.

A key part of the SDB II is a technology called a “tri-mode” seeker — a guidance system which can direct the weapon using millimeter wave radar, uncooled imaging infrared guidance and semi-active laser technology.

Raytheon weapons developers say the tri-mode seeker provides a range of guidance and targeting options typically not used together in one system. Millimeter wave radar gives the weapon an ability to navigate through adverse weather, conditions in which other guidance systems might encounter problems reaching or pinpointing targets.

Imagining infrared guidance allows the weapon to track and hone in on heat signatures such as the temperature of an enemy vehicle. With semi-active laser technology, the weapon can be guided to an exact point using a laser designator or laser illuminator coming from the air or the ground, Raytheon officials told Warrior.

Also, the SBD II brings a new ability to track targets in flight through use of a two-way Link 16 and UHF data link, Raytheon officials said.

One Raytheon SDB II developer told Warrior in a previous interview that “the millimeter wave radar turns on first. Then the data link gives it a cue and tells the seeker where to open up and look. Then, the weapon can turn on its IR (infrared) which uses heat seeking technology.”

The SBD II is engineered to weigh only 208 pounds, a lighter weight than most other air dropped bombs, so that eight of them can fit on the inside of an F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, Raytheon officials explained.

If weapons are kept in an internal weapons bay and not rested on an external weapons pod, then an aircraft can succeed in retaining its stealth properties because the shapes or contours of the weapons will not be visible to enemy radar.

About 105 pound of the SDB II is an explosive warhead which encompasses a “blast-frag” capability and a “plasma-jet” technology designed to pierce enemy armor, Raytheon officials explained.

The SDB II also has the ability to classify targets, meaning it could for example be programmed to hit only tanks in a convoy as opposed to other moving vehicles. The weapon can classify tanks, boats or wheeled targets, Raytheon officials added.

Auto Ground Collision Avoidance System
Grabowski also told Warrior Maven that, alongside the ongoing integration of the SDB II, the Air Force is progressing with the integration of a technology called Auto-Ground Collision Avoidance System. It is expected to be integrated next year, she added.

The technology, now installed on digital F-16 fighters, uses computer algorithms to take over an aircraft's flight trajectory and change a potential collision course with the ground or nearby terrain, senior Air Force officials told Warrior.

The technology calculates where the aircraft is and where it would hit the ground based upon the way it is flying at the time, senior Air Force officials told Warrior Maven. If the fighter jet is flying toward a potential collision with the ground, the on-board computer system will override the flight path and pull the aircraft away from the ground.

Auto-Ground Collision Avoidance is already saving lives, senior Air Force officials told Warrior Maven.

Image: U.S. Department of Defense
 

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Boeing Had Big Plans to Build Its Very Own F-35 (And Flopped)
May 20, 2019
And this is what it would have looked like.

The fundamental issue with the Joint Strike Fighter was that is was always an overambitious program to replace multiple specialized types with one aircraft in the hope that it could perform every role equally well. The result is predictably a jack-of-all-trades but master of none.
On October 26, 2001, the U.S. Department of Defense announced that Lockheed Martin’s X-35 had won the Joint Strike Fighter contest over Boeing’s X-32.

The win secured Lockheed’s future as the manufacturer for all of America’s fifth-generation fighter platforms. But Lockheed’s resultant F-35 has suffered myriad delay, technical glitches, unrecoverable technical shortfalls and massive cost overruns. Already the largest ever defense program with an estimated price tag of $233 billion in 2001 for a total of 2,866 aircraft, the F-35 program is now estimated to cost more than $391 billion for 2,457 jets, according to the Government Accountability Office.

Moreover, while the short-takeoff vertical landing F-35B was originally projected to achieve initial operational capability with the U.S. Marines in 2010, it only reached that milestone in 2015—five years late. Meanwhile, the conventional F-35A and the F-35C carrier variant were both slated to achieve initial operational capability with Block 3 software in 2012—but that software block is now scheduled to be delivered for operational testing in 2017 at the earliest.

Would Boeing have done any better? Hard to say—the Joint Strike Fighter was always a technically challenging and extraordinarily ambitious program. It is likely that Boeing would have run into similar but different technical and budgetary problems. The fundamental issue with the Joint Strike Fighter was that is was always an overambitious program to replace multiple specialized types with one aircraft in the hope that it could perform every role equally well. The result is predictably a jack-of-all-trades but master of none.

One of the main reasons why Lockheed Martin’s design was selected over Boeing’s was because the X-32’s direct lift system—which uses engine thrust to lift the aircraft—is prone to pop stalls. That’s a phenomenon where hot exhaust gases are reingested into the engine causing a power loss. There were also questions as to whether the engine would be powerful enough to lift a fully operational F-32—the prototype had to have parts removed to ensure it would fly. It probably didn’t help Boeing’s case that it had to redesign the X-32 to meet the modified JSF requirements. An operational F-32 had a very different configuration from the X-32.

Even if Boeing managed to solve the airframe issue, they would have had to deal with the extremely complex sensor fusion software. The software was always going to be a challenge under the best of circumstances. The only edge Boeing had was that it had developed the Lockheed Martin F-22’s avionics package—but the JSF is much more complex.

Overall, it is very likely the Boeing would have run into the same sort of technical hiccups, cost overruns and delays as Lockheed did on the X-32. Lockheed mismanaged the F-35 program to an extent, but the Pentagon’s requirements for a all-in-one wonder plane is what caused the programs problems. With either company, the JSF program was almost certainly going to be late and over budget—it just a question of by what margin.

 

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Congress cuts F-35 spare parts request amid supply problems
The House Appropriations defense subcommittee requested an adequate cost proposal from Lockheed Martin, which may lead to new parts suppliers or even making them at military depots.
May 21, 2019

By Allen Cone


Three F-35A Lightning IIs taxi after landing at Al Dhafra Air Base, United Arab Emirates, on April 15, 2019. Spare parts shortages have led to groundings of the aircraft, and questions from Congress. Photo by Staff Sgt. Chris Thornbury/U.S. Air Force


May 21 (UPI) -- A U.S. House subcommittee wants to approve only half of the Pentagon's spare parts purchases for F-35 jets in reviewing 2020 budgetary plans.

Last week, the Democrat-led House Appropriations Committee released a draft of the fiscal year 2020 defense funding bill, which includes $690.2 billion in discretionary spending. The legislation includes 90 F-35 aircraft, 12 more than requested, and eight F-15EX aircraft, meant to recapitalize the F-15C/D fleet in the U.S. military.

The fiscal year begins in October.

The House Appropriations Defense subcommittee is tasked with scrutinizing the military budget. Lawmakers are questioning the Air Force's fighter jet procurement and parts shortages for the F-35 fighter jets.

The panel plans to approve half of the $728.7 million request for spare parts for Navy and Air Force F-35s until the Pentagon has "received an adequate cost proposal" from Lockheed Martin.

That includes selling cost and technical data rights to the parts for others suppliers or even produce some at its own military maintenance depots.

"I assume Lockheed Martin will fight this as consensus growth expectations for the company include a healthy increase in revenues from sustaining the F-35 fleet," Byron Callan, a defense analyst with Capital Alpha Partners, told Bloomberg Quint. "If the government gets data rights they can compete spares and software or do some of this at their own depots and software labs."

The supply chain has a backlog of 4,300 parts for F-35s because of supply chain issues, according to the Government Accountability Office

A GAO report released in April said the aircraft couldn't fly aabout 30 percent of the time during a seven-month period last year because of shortages and mismatched parts.

"Currently the F-35 enterprise is unable to comprehensively and accurately inventory parts, efficiently move parts between locations, accurately match deployable spares packages to deploying units, or capture cost information for all the parts that are procured," the report noted.

The lawmakers concluded that the Air Force's planned aircraft investments largely fall in line with the "Air Force We Need" blueprint submitted to Capitol Hill earlier this year, according to Air Force Magazine.

The House report says buying seven fifth-generation fighter jets for every one fourth-gen fighter strikes a "reasonable balance" between pursuing more capable aircraft and maintaining the size of the F-15 fleet.

But the committee is questioning the strategy of the F-35.

"The Department of Defense, and the Air Force in particular, have sent conflicting and confusing signals with respect to the F-35 program," according to an appropriations report. "The fiscal year 2020 request repeats a pattern of shifting aircraft quantities to future years, reducing the planned procurement from 84 to 78. Further, the Air Force submitted a fiscal year 2020 budget request that flattens F-35A procurement at 48 aircraft per year through the future years defense program despite the F-35A program of record remaining stable at 1,763 aircraft."

The House Appropriations Committee's bill recommends the Air Force purchase 68 new fighters in 2020, including eight F-15EXs from Boeing for $985.5 million and 60 F-35As from Lockheed Martin for $5.1 billion.

The committee's suggestion is four fewer fighters than the 72 jets a year the Air Force says would achieve the goals of the National Defense Strategy. The "Air Force We Need" envisions growing the department from 312 to 386 squadrons, including seven new fighter squadrons.

The budget doesn't reflect that ambition, according to the report.

"The resources to initiate and sustain such growth simply do not exist within the fiscal year 2020 budget request or future years defense program, nor does the Air Force's five-year plan for fighter procurement achieve 72 new aircraft within any year," according to the report. "The plan that has been submitted to the committee requests 48 F-35A aircraft in fiscal year 2020 and every year thereafter through 2024, a reduction of 30 aircraft compared to the 2017 Selected Acquisition Report profile for the F-35 program."

Even if the F-15EXs are added to the mix each year, total fighter procurement would grow to only 66 jets annually.

 

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Number of F-35s Built for USAF Eclipses Number of F-22s
24 May 2019

Lockheed Martin delivered its 196th F-35A Joint Strike Fighter to the Air Force this week, surpassing the total of 195 F-22s—test and production—that it delivered to the service between 1996 and 2011.

The 196th F-35 will be based at Hill AFB, Utah, home of the first operational USAF F-35 squadrons. The first F-35A was delivered to the Air Force in 2006.

More than 395 F-35s have been built, including variants produced for the Marine Corps, Navy, and foreign partners and customers.

The Air Force is sticking to its production goal of 1,763 F-35s to replace the F-117, F-16, and A-10, and the US services collectively plan to buy over 2,600 of the fighters. More than 790 pilots have been trained to fly the strike fighter, which has accumulated a fleet total of over 195,000 flying hours. Counting all variants, the F-35 flies out of 17 bases.

The Air Force plans to buy at least 48 F-35s in fiscal 2020, and Congress may add another 12 airplanes to that total.

http://www.airforcemag.com/Features...-Built-for-USAF-Eclipses-Number-of-F-22s.aspx
 

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Navy deactivates Grim Reaper fighter squadron in Florida
May 24, 2019
By Allen Cone

Three F-35C Lightning II aircraft attached to the Argonauts of Strike Fighter Squadron 147, the Rough Raiders of Strike Fighter Squadron 125 and the Grim Reapers of Strike Fighter Squadron 101 complete a flight over Eglin Air Force Base in Fort Walton Beach, Fla., on February 1. Photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Shannon E. Renfroe/U.S. Navy

May 24 (UPI) -- The U.S. Navy deactivated one of two remaining F-35C Joint Strike Fighter training squadrons, known as Grim Reaper, transferring the activities from northern Florida to central California.

Almost 200 people attended the ceremony Thursday at Eglin Air Force Base in Fort Walton Beach as the last Grim Reaper F-35C began its journey to Naval Air Station Lemoore in Kings County. Grim Reapers date to 1942.

"The contributions that VFA-101 has made to the F-35C community will not diminish as this program grows," VFA-101 Commanding Officer Cmdr. Adan Covarrubias said at the ceremony. "The original cadre of maintainers and pilots have left a legacy that is evidenced in all aspects of this community. Their influence will continue long after the squadron's doors are closed."

Covarrubias will take command of VFA-125 next month in California with many of his maintainers and pilots joining him. After the deactivation ceremony, he told USNI News that "it was probably the best thing we could have ever done."

During the fall and winter, the two squadrons worked together multiple times. "It's kind of been seamless," Covarrubias said. "When we transition to 125 here in a couple weeks, everybody knows each other, everybody's worked with each other in the past. We've been working this for about a year now, and we've worked really well together."

Past and present Grim Reaper pilots, crew and family members attended the ceremony. They included family members of the original VF-10 Grim Reapers, the Capt. William R. Kane family and the James H. Flatley family with three generations of Grim Reaper pilots in attendance.

"We're excited about the integration," Rear Adm. Roy Kelley, commander of Naval Air Force Atlantic, who spoke at the deactivation ceremony, told USNI News. "And as we move forward, there's some challenges, no doubt. How do we integrate this appropriately? How do we use all the capabilities that the F-35 has, so that we can move forward with the carrier air wing of the future?"

Kelley was a former Grim Reapers pilot when the squadron flew the F-14 Tomcat.

With a home port in an Diego, the squadron was originally known as VF-10 and was flying the F4F Wildcat off USS Enterprise in the Pacific during World War II. In 1945, VF-10 deactivated at Naval Air Station Almeda on San Francisco Bay.

In 1952, VF-101 was commissioned at NAS Cecil Field, Fla., assuming the nickname and traditions of the previous VF-10 "Grim Reapers. They flew FG1-D Corsairs in the Korean War.

VF-101 was deactivated September 2005 but reactivated in May 2012 on the 60th Anniversary of the Grim Reapers, as the first Lightning II Fleet Replacement Squadron for the F-35C.

The squadron has trained more than 75 Navy and Marine Corps F-35C pilots, trained more than 1,200 F-35C maintainers, flown nearly 11,000 flight hours and accepted more than 30 aircraft,

Naval Air Station Lemoore is the home base for Commander, Joint Strike Fighter Wing, the Navy's F-35C fleet squadrons and the Fleet Replacement Squadron, which trains Navy and Marine Corps carrier-based JSF pilots

Most F-35C pilots at VFA-101 will transfer to California. Also, more than 50 percent of sailor maintainers from the Grim Reapers will also remain in the F-35C operation at Lemoore or at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif.

Remaining at Eglin will be U.S. Navy Enlisted Maintenance training at the Academic Training Center and the Navy's support of Test & Evaluation joint development with the U.S. Air Force, U.S. Marine Corps and the partners at Eglin.

"When we assessed the requirements to establish and mature the F-35C community, NAS Lemoore was the right place to home-base our Sailors and aircraft," Capt. Max McCoy, the U.S. Navy F-35C wing commodore, said. "Consolidating resources enables leadership to better support Fleet Replacement Squadron training and operational squadron transitions, both for the Navy and Marine Corps."

The Navy also wants to integrate F-35C assets with existing F/A-18E/F aircraftly stationed at NAS Lemoore.

"Home-basing the F-35C at NAS Lemoore also gives sailors the flexibility to move from 'sea' to 'shore' billets without leaving NAS Lemoore," McCoy said. "The F-35C is part of the Navy's Strike Fighter community. Co-locating 4th and 5th generation aircraft accelerates carrier air wing integration, making our carrier strike groups more lethal and survivable. NAS Lemoore is a catalyst for how we will train, maintain and sustain future carrier air wing capability."

 

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U.S. fighter jets could work together with high-performance unmanned combat aircraft dogfighting by 2020s
Unmanned combat aircraft by the next decade could join high-performance U.S. military fighter jets as trusted partners in dogfighting, Defense News says.

May 23rd, 2019
Drone Wingmen 23 May 2019



WASHINGTON – The F-35 and F-15EX fighter jets could get drone wingmen in the coming years, as Air Force leaders explore ways to team Lockheed Martin’s F-35 and Boeing’s new F-15EX with the XQ-58 Valkyrie drone or similar unmanned platforms in future dogfighting. Defense News reports.

The Valkyrie, which flew its first test flight at Yuma Proving Ground, Arizona, on March 5, was designed to perform and maneuver like fighter jets. It can fly at high subsonic speeds, takeoff without a runway, and, according to Kratos, meet or exceed the Air Force’s requirement for a 1,500-nautical-mile range with a 500-pound payload.

The Air Force is also assessing whether other unmanned aerial systems would complement the Skyborg program. A March request for information describes “a modular, fighter-like aircraft” that is autonomous and attritable, with open systems that allow it to be updated with new AI software or new hardware. Desired characteristics include the ability to detect and avoid obstacles and bad weather, and to takeoff and land autonomously.

For the F-35, the pathway to incorporating Skyborg would involve writing software — similar to an iPhone application —that could be installed on the jet during its Block 4 modernization phase in the early 2020s.

 

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RAF F-35Bs decamp to Cyprus for first overseas deployment
Tim Ripley, London
22 May 2019

British F-35Bs arrived at RAF Akrotiri in Cyprus on 21 May for the type’s first overseas deployment in UK service. Source: Crown Copyright


Key Points
  • Six RAF F-35Bs have flown to RAF Akrotiri in Cyprus
  • The training mission is the type's first overseas deployment in UK service
British Lockheed Martin F-35B Lightning combat aircraft flew to the Royal Air Force (RAF) base on Cyprus on 21 May for the type's first overseas deployment in UK service.

The contingent of six F-35Bs took off from their home base at RAF Marham in Norfolk and flew non-stop to RAF Akrotiri with support from an RAF Airbus A330 air-to-air refuelling aircraft.

According to an announcement by the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) on 21 May, the aircraft will be participating in Exercise 'Lightning Dawn' for six weeks. "This training exercise will allow personnel to gain vital experience in maintaining and flying the aircraft in an unfamiliar environment," said the MoD. "The training exercise will also examine all aspects of moving this aircraft to a new location, including logistics, maintenance, and sustainment of all the equipment and crew."

An RAF spokesman told Jane's on 22 May that it "did not currently plan" to use the F-35s in Operation 'Shader' combat missions over the Middle East during their time in Cyprus, adding that the deployment was a "long-planned training exercise that is not linked to the recent tension between the US and Iran".

A UK defence source said that if any crisis should develop in the Middle East in the near future, the RAF's F-35Bs could be part of any UK response. "If something kicks off then the F-35Bs are good to go but the current plan is that this is just a training deployment," the source told Jane's .

 

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Interesting New Video Shows U.S. Air Force F-35A Jets Deployed To UAE Taking Off In “Beast Mode”
May 23, 2019
David Cenciotti


An F-35 with external loads is prepared for a mission at Al Dhafra. (Screenshot from Youtube video).

USAF F-35A supporting Operation Inherent Resolve in Syria and Iraq have started going “beast”.
The U.S. Air Force belonging to the contingent from active duty 388th and reserve 419th Fighter Wings at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, deployed since Apr. 15, 2019, to the CENTCOM AOR (Area Of Responsibility), that conducted the very first air strike in support of Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve on April 30, have launched “deterrence missions” in the CENTCOM AOR (Area Of Responsibility) since their arrival at Al Dhafra Air Base, in UAE.

As already explained in detail, in both combat as well as “standard” theater sorties, the F-35A aircraft carried external AIM-9X Sidewinder AAMs (Air-to-Air Missiles) – and the radar reflectors/RCS (Radar Cross Section) enhancers.

In my previous article about the F-35A’s baptism of fire, I commented:
“The F-35s use RCS enhancers to exaggerate their real RCS and negate the enemy the ability to collect any detail about their LO “signature”. In Syria and Iraq the risk is probably to “feed” the Russian S-400 air defense system, hence the use of devices used to become more visible to radars.

Actually, the use of Luneberg lenses is also an option in case of war, when enemy air defense assets including sensors, air defense missile and gun systems and enemy aircraft are degraded by airstrikes and the environment becomes more permissive: in such a scenario the F-35 no longer relies on low-observable capabilities for survivability so it can shift to carrying large external loads, and go in a so-called beast mode”.

New footage coming from Al Dhafra shows that the F-35s have alreadt started flying in CAS (Close Air Support) “Beast Mode” (or “Bomb Truck”).



In particular, the aircraft are loaded with 2x AIM-9X (on the outer pylons) and 4x GBU-12 500-lb LGB (Laser Guided Bombs) on the underwing pylons.

This configuration involving external loads is also referred to as a “Third Day of War” configuration as opposed to a “First Day of War” one in which the F-35 would carry weapons internally to maintain low radar cross-section and observability from sensors (if needed – for instance, this was not needed when the F-35A was called to carry out the first air strike in the Middle East, nor was it needed when the U.S. Marine Corps F-35B carried out the first air strike in Afghanistan).

Exploiting the internal weapon bays, in “Beast Mode“ the F-35A can carry 2x AIM-9X (external pylons), 2x AIM-120 AMRAAM (internal bomb bay) and 4x GBU-31 2,000-lb (pylons) and 2x GBU-31 PGMs (internal bay). We don’t know whether the F-35As in the footage had also internal load (an AIM-120 is barely visible) but the fact they had external bombs is surely worth of note. Another interesting detail is that not all the outer pylons are loaded with the AIM-9X: at least one of the aircraft has one empty pylon.

As explained in a previous story, “the use of radar reflectors and external loads still allows the aircraft to act as a so-called “electronic warfare enabled sensor-rich multi-role aircraft” that can hit target or escort strike packages into and out of the target area while gathering details about the enemy systems and spreading intelligence to other “networked” assets supporting the mission to improve the overall situational awareness. As done by the F-22s since 2015, the F-35 can use its advanced onboard sensors to collect valuable details about the enemy Order of Battle, then share the “picture” with attack planes, command and control assets, as well as Airborne Early Warning aircraft, while escorting other manned or unmanned aircraft towards the targets. Indeed, the Lightning II is equipped with both the MADL [Multifunction Advanced Data Link] and Link 16, with the latter used only as a “backdoor” that allows the F-35 to communicate with legacy aircraft and perform the function of “enhancers” of previous generation platforms.”

Back to the “Beast Mode”, F-35B with the U.S. Marine Corps of the “Flying Tigers” of Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 262 (Reinforced) launched in “Beast Mode” (or “Bomb Truck”) from the flight deck of amphibious assault ship USS Wasp (LHD 1) during the deployment in the Indo-Pacific region last February.

 

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U.S. Air Force F-35A Squadron Deploys To Aviano Air Base As Part Of European Theater Security Package
May 25, 2019 David Cenciotti


The first of six F-35s that landed at Aviano on May 23.

The USAF F-35A Lightning II fighter jets are at their first operational deployment to Italy.

Flying as “Tabor 51-56”, and supported during the last part of their flight by KC-135 tankers from the 100th ARW from RAF Mildenhall (using radio callsigns “Clean 01-04”) the first F-35A jets from the 388th and 419th Fighter Wings, from Hill AFB, Utah, have landed at Aviano Air Base, Italy, on May 23, 2019. The first six aircraft were serials 15-5200, 15-5173, 17-5252, 15-5203, 15-5202, 17-5239. Six more F-35s are planned to land at Aviano on May 25.


F-35A AF15-5173

The fifth generation aircraft and members of the 421st and 466th Fighter Squadrons will remain in Europe for several weeks and will participate in exercises and conduct training with other Europe-based aircraft as part of a TSP (Theater Security Package). It’s the second time Lightning II aircraft belonging to the 388th Fighter Wing, the USAF’s first combat coded unit flying the F-35, deployed to Europe: the first deployment was in April 2017 and saw the 34th Fighter Squadron operate from RAF Lakenheath, UK.

F-35A AF15-5252

Just like Pacific TSPs, the European TSP is a periodic rotational presence of U.S. military assets in the European theater “capable of deterring adversaries and assuring partners and allies of U.S. commitment to regional security.”

Usually, aircraft taking part in TSP take part in regional exercises and perform re-deployments across the continent: in particular, the USAF F-35s will take part in the Astral Knight 2019 at Aviano, will attend the FWIT (Fighter Weapons Instructor Training) 2019 at Leeuwarden, Netherlands; will participate in the TLP at Albacete, Spain. It’s also worth a mention the fact that Hill AFB’s F-35s will be involved in the testing and evaluation of the Swiss Air Force future fighter program, known as “Air 2030”, even though, based on previous reports, it looks like as many as four Lightning II will arrive at Payerne in June directly from the U.S. (hence it won’t be the current deployment to support Lockheed Martin in the Swiss competition).
F-35s from the 388th and 419th Fighter Wings are also currently deployed to Al Dhafra, UAE, to support Operation Inherent Resolve in Syria and Iraq.

F-35A AF15-5203

Noteworthy, the 421st FS is the newest F-35A squadron and this is their first deployment with the multi-role stealth fighter.
“The entire 421st ops and maintenance team are extremely excited for this deployment,” said Lt. Col. Richard Orzechowski, 421st Fighter Squadron commander in a public statement published by USAFE. “As the final 388th Fighter Wing squadron to transition to the F-35A, we’ve been able to leverage the experience of the 4th FS and 34th FS and take the squadron on the road just six months after getting our first jets. We are really looking forward to continuing the cohesion built with our allies and partners. It is a real privilege to get the seasoning, training and life experiences for our 388th and 419th FW Airmen.”

F-35A AF15-5202

“It’s a great honor to be part of another milestone for Hill (AFB) and the F-35 community,” said Maj. James Russell, F-35 pilot with the 419th FW.

“Locally, this effort is a demonstration of our Total Force Integration construct hard at work between the 388th and 419th Fighter Wings. On a larger scale, it’s a great opportunity to showcase our newest fighter platform to our partner nations and assure those nations of our continued support for their safety and security.”


F-35A AF15-5239

 

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‘You can’t see them’: Japan set to buy 100+ US F-35 stealth fighter jets, Trump boasts
27 May, 2019

Tokyo has agreed to purchase 105 brand-new US-produced F-35 warplanes, US President Donald Trump said on Monday during his state visit to Japan. The announcement comes as Washington locks horns with Turkey over the planes.

The arms deal would give Japan the largest F-35 fleet among Washington’s allies, Trump told reporters following talks with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
Sharing some wisdom, the US president also proudly explained that the planes are “stealth because the fact is you can't see them.” Lavishing more praise on the fifth-generation high-tech weaponry, he noted that Tokyo was among the top buyers of American arms last year.

The upcoming deal, which may reportedly cost Japan a whopping $10 billion, has been discussed since December 2018 as Shinzo Abe’s government approved an increase in the country’s order for Lockheed Martin’s stealth fighters.

Meanwhile Japan’s existing fleet of F-35A fighters has been recently plagued by technical problems resulting in at least seven emergency landings during the past two years. The latest incident, which occurred in early April, saw a combat plane disappearing off radars and crashing in northern Japan due to cooling and navigation issues.

In 2017, the Pentagon revealed that “2,769 deficiencies” were identified in the performance of F35 jets. Further reports suggested some F35s have a life span four times shorter than the expected 8,000 flights, while the aircrafts’ guns accuracy is “unacceptable.”

F35 is Lockheed Martin’s most lucrative weapons program, estimated at $1.2 trillion.

While Japan’s F-35 deals seem to run smoothly, deliveries to another NATO ally, Turkey, were blocked by the US over Ankara’s purchase of Russian S-400 air defense systems. Washington demands the S-400s are replaced with US Patriot batteries and has threatened to exclude Turkey from the F-35 program. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan however maintains that Ankara is not going to step back on the S-400 deal, indicating that “it is a defense system, not an attack system.”

 

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Air Force deploys F-35 squadron to Italy for exercises, training
By Allen Cone
MAY 28, 2019

F-35A Lightning II fighter jets, airmen, and associated equipment from the 388th and 419th Fighter Wings, at Hill AFB, Utah, deployed to Aviano Air Base, Italy, last week. Photo by Micah Garbarino/U.S. Air Force


May 28 (UPI) -- The U.S. Air Force has deployed a squadron of F-35A Lightning II fighter jets, airmen and equipment to an air base in Italy for exercises and to conduct training with other Europe-based aircraft.

The squadron, which includes the fifth-generation fighter plane, arrived Friday at Aviano Air Base from the 388th and 419th Fighter Wings at Hill Air Force Base, Utah. as part of a Theater Security Package. The jets and personnel will remain in Europe for several weeks, according to a U.S. Air Force news release.

"The entire 421st ops and maintenance team are extremely excited for this deployment," Lt. Col. Richard Orzechowski, 421st Fighter Squadron commander, said in a Navy news release. "As the final 388th Fighter Wing squadron to transition to the F-35A, we've been able to leverage the experience of the 4th FS and 34th FS and take the squadron on the road just six months after getting our first jets."

The Theater Security Package is funded through the European Deterrence Initiative that provides "a more robust U.S. military rotational presence in the European theater capable of deterring adversaries and assuring partners and allies of U.S. commitment to regional security," according to the Air Force.

The Utah fighter wings are the Air Force's only combat-capable F-35 units.

"It's a great honor to be part of another milestone for Hill and the F-35 community," said Maj. James Russell, an F-35 pilot with the 419th Fighter Wing. "Locally, this effort is a demonstration of our total force integration construct hard at work between the 388th and 419th Fighter Wings. On a larger scale, it's a great opportunity to showcase our newest fighter platform to our partner nations and assure those nations of our continued support for their safety and security."

F-35A's were sent to Royal Air Force Lakenheath in England, as well as the U.S. Pacific Command area of responsibility, in April 2017 for their first overseas training deployment.

Last November, the 388th Fighter Wing's 4th Fighter Squadron and 4th Aircraft Maintenance Unit completed a combat exercise over the Utah Test and Training Range where they tested and evaluated their capabilities to operate the F-35A Lightning II in a deployed environment.

F-35s from Hill Air Force Base were deployed for the first time in April, being sent to the Middle East. The aircraft arrived at Al Dhafra Air Base in the United Arab Emirites and are now part of a coalition that carries out airstrikes against the Taliban in Afghanistan and scattered remnants of the Islamic State.

The F-35 Lightning II is a single-seat, single-engine fighter aircraft with a range of more than 1,350 miles with internal fuel, according to the Air Force. It was introduced to the Air Force in 2016.

The F-35s, as well as F-22 Raptors, are replacing most of the U.S. military fighter fleets. The F-16 and A-10 have been the Air Force's primary fighter jets for more than 20 years. The U.S. Navy will replace the F/A-18 with F-35C for carriers, and the U.S. Marines will replace the F/A-18 and AV-8B Harrier with the F-35B for short takeoff and vertical landing.

With conventional takeoffs and landings, the F-35A possess a combination of stealth, speed, agility and situational awareness along with lethal long-range, air-to-air and air-to-ground weaponry, "making these aircraft the best air dominance fighters in the world," according to the Air Force.
More than 320 aircraft have been delivered to the United States and partner nations, with more than 680 pilots and 6,200 maintenance crewmen trained or in training, according to the manufacturer, Lockheed Martin.

The U.S. Department of Defense and Lockheed Martin last September finalized a $15.5 billion contract for the production and delivery of 141 F-35s at the lowest per aircraft price in program history: ranging between $89.2 million and $107.7 million for the Air Force, Navy and Marines.

 

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