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The Pentagon’s most expensive and highly-criticized weapons program finally showed progress as the Marine Corps established the first squadron of the F-35b jet fighters. The F-35b’s new operational squadron is stationed at an airbase in Yuma, Arizona.
Three F-35b jets have already arrived at the base with 13 more units will come over next year. According to the base spokesperson, the service built a new hangar for the planes as well as a high-end flight stimulator for the pilots and maintenance facilities. The new squadron will start its initial flights by December or early next year.
A ceremony was held for the unveiling of the new squadron. It was attended by top Pentagon and Lockheed executives as well as Arizona Sen. John McCain who sits at the Senate Armed Services Committee.
The F-35 is the replacement for the aging fleet of the F/A-18 Hornet and AV-8B Harrier jets. Lockheed Martin is building three variants of the jet fighter for the U.S. Military and other countries. The F-35b model has STOVL capabilities.
“This squadron will be the first, not only in the Marine Corps or the United States, but the first in the world to bring a fifth-generation, multi-role, (short takeoff vertical landing) stealth fighter … into an operational status,” Marine Corps Commandant General James Amos said during his speech at the unveiling ceremony.
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News Source: news.terra.com
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On January 11, 2012, excitement surrounds the Eglin Air Force Base in Florida as the Marine Corps welcomes the newest member to its fleet. The F-35B is a variation of the Joint Strike Figther. It is a tactical fixed-wing aircraft that will replace the aging jets of the Marine Corps. The Marine Fighter Attack Training Squadron 501 which is the F-35 training squadron of 2d Marine Aircraft Wing based at Eglin AFB is the first squadron to receive the F-35B. The aircraft will be used for pilot and technician training.
According to Maj. Gen. Jon M. Davis, commanding general of 2d MAW, “The Marine Corps has to be ready to fight across the spectrum of war; a force that is most ready when the nation is least ready. The F-35B gives us the capability to do just that.”
The F-35B has a short take-off and vertical landing capabilities. It will reduce maintenance cost while helping the marine ensure its tactical dominance needed to dissuade potential adversaries and protect the nation’s interest. The aircraft will replace the Marine Corps’ F/A-18 Hornet, AV-8B Harrier and EA-6B Prowler.
Commanding Officer of VMFAT-501, Lt. Col. James B. Wellons added praise to the F-35B, “The STOVL capability of the F-35B will enable us to deploy with the Marine Air-Ground Task Force and ensure these fifth-generation capabilities are available when needed. Our mission is to conduct F-35B operations in coordination with our joint and coalition partners at Eglin Air Force Base in order to attain our annual pilot training requirement.”
The F-35B completed 250 vertical landings this year. It includes 72 vertical landings and shoirt takeoffs on the USS Wasp in October.
AV-8B, av-8b harrier, AV-8B Harrier jump jet, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, F-16 C/D, F-16 C/D jets, F-16 deal, F-16 jets, F-16 purchase, F-16C/D, F-35B, F-35B JSF, F-35B STOVL, F-35B vertical-takeoff version, f16 falcon, George Little, Obama administration, Pentagon spokesman, Robert M. Gates, Taiwan F-16 sale, Taiwan-China
The White House turned down the sale of F-16 C/D jets because of concerns that the sale would upset relations with China more than a sale to upgrade older jets, the officials said.
The Obama administration is expected to announce as early as Wednesday the sale of a package of equipment and weapons worth $5.8 billion to upgrade Taiwan’s fleet of 145 F-16 jets. In agreeing to the upgrades, President Obama and White House officials rejected a proposal sought by some in the administration to offer Taiwan66 new and more advanced F-16 C/D jets.
Administration officials briefed Congress on the deal Friday and are defending the decision not to sell new jets by asserting that the upgrades will give modernized Taiwanese F-16s a “near C/D” capability.
A congressional military specialist, however, said the expected arms package will be insufficient in bolstering Taiwan’s air power. In addition to announcing the Taiwanese military upgrade, the Pentagonthis week will release a congressional mandated study on Taiwan’s air power.
The study concludes that Taiwan’s military should buy short-takeoff and vertical-landing jets such as the British-design AV-8B Harrier jump jet or the new F-35B vertical-takeoff version, according to the officials familiar with the aircraft.That conclusion was based on anticipated Chinese missile strikes against Taiwanese airfields with cratering munitions that would thwart takeoffs by F-16s and other jets.
A defense official said that conclusion appears skewed to support the administration’s decision not to sell new F-16s by highlighting airstrip vulnerability.
The Obama administration has been seeking closer military ties to China. In January, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates proposed holding talks on nuclear weapons, missile defenses, cyberwarfare and space. A Chinese general promised to study the proposal.
Pentagon spokesman George Little declined to comment on the pending arms sale. He said U.S. arms-sale policy is based on the three joint communiques with China and the Taiwan Relations Act.
On military ties, Mr. Little said: “From our perspective, we have made progress in our dialogue as we work toward a healthy, stable and reliable and continuous military-to-military relationship.”
Source: The Washington Times
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For the first time in the history of the Joint Strike Fighter program, a senior Pentagon appointee has raised the question of whether one of the three versions of the Lockheed Martin F-35 should be canceled to save money. The move comes as program leaders and Pentagon cost experts are trying to prepare for a long-delayed Defense Acquisition Board review of JSF, including a comprehensive effort to establish reliable predictions of acquisition and operating costs.
Navy Undersecretary Robert Work told the Navy and Marine Corps in July to provide lower-cost alternatives to the Navy’s current tactical aviation plan, and to examine the consequences of terminating either the F-35B short-takeoff-and-vertical-landing (Stovl) version or the carrier-compatible F-35C. Work is seeking decisions in time for the 2013 budget submission.
He also directed service leaders to study whether the Navy and Marines could operate fewer than the 40 squadrons of JSFs currently planned (supported by 680 aircraft, divided equally between Bs and Cs) and to look at the possibility of accelerating development of unmanned alternative systems.
The instructions were included in a July 7 memo from Work to Navy acquisition chief Sean Stackley, Vice Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jonathan Greenert and Assistant Marine Commandant Gen. Joseph Dunford. Work told the leaders to form a team to develop three alternative tactical aviation force structures, respectively representing cost savings of $5 billion, $7.5 billion and $10 billion across the future-years defense plan. Ultimately, Work expects to determine “the best value alternative, factoring in both cost and capability.”
“This relook must consider every plan and program,” Work wrote. “Even cuts to long-planned buys of JSF must be on the table.” The team was also tasked to define “the key performance differences between the Block II F/A-18E/F with all planned upgrades, F-35B and F-35C.”
The quick-look analysis was due to be completed three weeks after the memo date; that is, by July 28. That was also the date on which Marine leadership organized a high-profile demonstration of the F-35B’s Stovl capability at the Navy’s Patuxent River, Md., flight test center.
Under Work’s leadership, the Marines and the Navy signed an agreement in March under which the Marines would operate 80 F-35Cs and 340 F-35Bs. Earlier, the Marines had argued that all 420 of their JSFs should be F-35Bs.
Work did not direct the team to assess the economic or operational impact of F-35 program changes on the Air Force or international partners. A reduction in Navy Department orders for both the F-35B and F-35C would increase unit costs. Canceling either version would eliminate some remaining development costs, mostly in flight test, and could lead to increased production of the surviving variant.
The largest international JSF partner, the U.K., changed its plans in October 2010, switching from the B to the C model. If the F-35C were to be canceled, the U.K. would withdraw from the program and “look for a European solution” to its requirement for a carrier fighter, a senior U.K. official said in Washington earlier this month. Italy is the only international partner that plans to operate the F-35B.
Lockheed Martin declined to comment on the memo, saying that it was an internal Navy document. The F-35 Joint Program Office (JPO) had no immediate comment.
As an analyst with the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, Work coauthored studies that supported the case for early development of a carrier-based unmanned combat air vehicle (UCAV) with greater range and better stealth characteristics than the F-35.
Currently, there is a debate in Washington about the characteristics of a future Navy UCAV system. General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc. is still proposing the 15,000-lb. weight class, moderately stealthy Avenger design, while Northrop Grumman confirmed earlier this month that it would be proposing a design similar to its larger and stealthier X-47B. The latter would potentially fill some of the deep-penetration missions that the F-35C is intended to perform.
Boeing, meanwhile, is continuing to work on an improved version of the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, which would reduce capability and performance gaps between it and the F-35C. The company plans to conduct wind-tunnel tests, late this year or early next, of the conformal tanks, which add 3,000 lb. of fuel, and a centerline weapons pod. General Electric is also offering an Enhanced Performance Engine variant of the Super Hornet’s F414, increasing thrust by as much as 25%.
The F-35B variant remains on probation, under a decree issued by then-Defense Secretary Robert Gates in January. Gates said at the time that problems affecting the aircraft—including the need for a redesigned lift-fan door, driveshaft and clutch mechanisms—would have to be solved without increases in cost or weight. The U.K. government said, in switching from the B to the C variant, that the Stovl aircraft cost more than either the F-35A or F-35C, and U.K. government reports repeatedly described the F-35B’s “bring-back” performance—its ability to land vertically with fuel reserves and unused weapons—as marginal.
Last year, Work suggested in remarks to a Washington forum that forward basing and refueling on improvised airstrips—one of two pillars of the Marine case for the F-35B—would become much more hazardous in the presence of G-RAMM (guided rockets, artillery, mortars and missiles) threats.
The F-35B’s basing flexibility is also being called into question by unresolved issues about the effects of the fighter’s hot, high-velocity exhaust on ground and deck surfaces. Lockheed Martin and senior Marine leaders have downplayed these issues, stated that the environment under a landing F-35B is almost identical to that of an AV-8B Harrier, and claimed that early 2010 tests confirmed these characteristics.
Navy construction specifications continue to warn that the F-35B will impose temperatures as high as 1700F (several hundred degrees higher than a Harrier exhaust) on vertical-landing pads, with a transonic exhaust velocity. This is enough to cause standard concrete to “spall”—that is, shed surface flakes in a near-explosive manner—with a 50% chance of damage on the first landing.
Navy standards require F-35B landing pads to comprise 100 X 100-ft. slabs of special heat-resistant concrete, poured in one piece and continuously reinforced in two directions. At least one contract has been issued to these specifications since early 2010, when Lockheed Martin asserted that such measures were not necessary.
The Office of Naval Research still has an active program to develop a cooling system for the decks of LHD- and LHA-class ships that will carry F-35Bs, reflecting concerns that thermal expansion and contraction and consequent buckling will cause fatigue and premature failure.
The JPO has not responded to repeated inquiries about the discrepancies between Lockheed Martin’s statements and Navy specifications. Navy engineering organizations have referred all queries to the JPO.
The Defense Acquisition Board review is required in order to renew Milestone B approval of the JSF development and low-rate initial production program—granted in 2001 but rescinded automatically after last year’s critical breach of Nunn-McCurdy cost limits. In May, the review was expected in June, but it was abruptly delayed into the fall.
Any changes in the Navy’s plans will also factor into the board’s review. Among other factors being considered is a trend among international partners to delay deliveries, driven by last year’s slip in the completion of development testing, which will have an impact on production rates, ramp-up plans and costs.
JSF test aircraft were cleared to return to flight on Aug. 18, after a two-week grounding caused by a failure in the integrated power pack (IPP). Production aircraft, including two at Eglin AFB, Fla., and F-35s being prepared for delivery at Fort Worth, remain grounded and restricted from engine and IPP runs.
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Just days after the Navy SEAL raid that killed Osama bin Laden, USMC Harrier fighters, Predator drones and a special operations aircraft missed came within inches of taking out the next big target on their terror hit list, the man considered the biggest threat to America.
It was a tip from the Yemeni government that sent U.S. aircraft over the wilds of southern Yemen’s Shabwa province in search of Anwar al-Awlaki, the U.S.-born radical Islamic cleric and al Qaeda leader who has been linked to several deadly plots against America.
According to ABC News, the U.S. military dispatched a fearsome array of heavily armed warplanes including Marine Harrier jets, Predator drones and a special operations aircraft carrying short range Griffin missiles to follow a pickup truck in which Awlaki was a passenger. This was on May 5,2011.
But unlike the successful mission that eliminated bin Laden, this raid would be marred by what an official described to ABC News as a series of “errors.”
With Harriers and a Predator drone still overhead, the U.S. fired another missile at Awlaki. This time a huge fireball engulfed the pickup truck. The U.S. military trackers thought they had their man.But then they watched, stunned, as the truck drove straight out of the fireball to safety. The missile had only grazed the back bumper.
The AV-8B Harriers, which were almost out of gas, had to leave. The remaining aircraft tried to keep following Awlaki to take another shot. But then cloud cover got in the way. Awlaki was able to exploit a moment of hesitation while the targeting pods and the surveillance aircraft were refocusing to jump out of his pickup truck and move to another.
Source: ABC News
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Six AV-8B Harriers from Marine Attack Squadron 231 left Cherry Point Friday morning for an extended mission with the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit. The Harriers made the 15-minute flight offshore to land on the deck of the USS Bataan, which is bound for the Mediterranean and possible action in Libya.
Marines from the 22nd MEU will be taking over for the 26th MEU, which has been engaged in operations in support of United Nations Resolution 1973 instituting a no-fly zone ever the embattled country of Libya.
Major Ben Hutchins, boat officer in charge of the VMA-231 Harriers during the deployment, is a veteran of four prior deployments in Japan, Iraq and Afghanistan. If the 22nd MEU ends up sending assets into Libya it will be the first time Hutchins, who has some 1,750 flight hours in the Harrier, has flown in that country in his 15-year Marine Corps career.
Anytime a MEU deploys it means Harriers will be challenged with making vertical landings on the deck of an amphibious ship.
“It is different,” Hutchins said. “The ship’s about 800 feet long, and we’re sharing that with about 34 different other aircraft.”
Some of the six pilots will be landing on a ship for the first time. One of the pilots doing his first landing on a ship is Capt. Eric Sherrer.
“It adds a different dimension to the flying. It’s a little bit more difficult than flying into a conventional airfield,” Sherrer said. “It’s something that only the Navy Marines do, and we’re excited to do it.”
Original story and photo from jdnews.com
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Marine aviators of Marine Fighter Attack Training Squadron 501 completed four sorties this week in F-16 Fighting Falcons, beginning a familiarization process to ensure readiness and efficiency in the transition to the Department of Defense’s fifth-generation fighter, the F-35B Lightning II.
Lt. Col. James Wellons, the VMFAT-501 commander said, ”It’s a tremendous opportunity to fly (these sorties).” He also said, “This is the first time a VMFAT-501 pilot has flown here at our new home.”
Officials elected to bring the F-16 Fighting Falcon from Luke Air Force Base, Arizona, to the 33rd Fighter Wing to Eglin AFB, Florida because of its similarity to its descendant, the F-35. Its flying characteristics are similar to the F-35, so the training and mindset pilots will have in a single-engine fighter transitions from the F-16 into the F-35.
The Marines, who’d only flown in Marine and Naval fighters, they discovered vast similarities to the Air Force F-16 and their AV-8B Harriers, F/A-18 Hornets and EA-6B Prowlers.
“In many ways there was no difference,” Colonel Wellons said. “It was very similar to how it feels to fly any tactical aircraft.”
The differences they did notice were the Air Force language and methods used to communicate about and inside the aircraft. For example, Marine aviators use hand gestures to communicate aircraft movement, while Air Force aircrews may tip or tilt the wings of the aircraft to indicate a procedure.
This familiarization is doubly beneficial to the Marines, not just to understand an aircraft style similar to the F-35, but to also experience Eglin’s runway and flightline operations, maintenance procedures and airspace.
“This training allows us to eliminate the added variables of learning all new flight operations with a completely unfamiliar aircraft all at the same time,” said Capt. Mark Noble, the aviator safety officer for VMFAT-501. “If we already understand flightline procedures and guidelines and know what to expect from a similar aircraft, we can focus primarily on F-35B training.”
Looking back on their first flight in months, both Marines admitted to a bit of aviator “rust,” but were glad to be back in the seat and flying.
“This is a major milestone for VMFAT-501,” Colonel Wellons said. “Every time a Marine flies an aircraft here, it’s one step closer to putting F-35s in the air.”
The Marine variant of joint strike fighter, the F-35B, contains a short take-off and vertical landing engine. The STOVL variant will replace the Marine Corps inventory of F/A-18s and AV-8s. The Italian air force is the only international partner scheduled to fly the STOVL variant. The F-35B will be the world’s first operational supersonic STOVL aircraft.
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In support of Operation Odyssey Dawn, the U.S. Navy EA-18G Growlers from coalition bases and the U.S. Marine Corps’ AV-8B Harriers was launched last March 20 aboard USS Kearsarge (LHD 3) to enforce citizens from further harm.
According to the report, the Growlers provide electronic warfare support over Libya while Harriers from the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) conduct strikes against Muammar Gaddafi’s ground forces and air defenses, joining an international effort to halt an offensive against the Libyan populace.
“Protecting the innocent and conducting combined operations are what we are designed to do,” said Col. Mark J. Desens, commanding officer of 26th MEU.
The EA-18G Growlers has the capability to operate autonomously or as a major node in a network-centric operation and will provide accurate emitter targeting for employment of onboard suppression weapons such as the High-Speed Anti-Radiation Missile (HARM).
On the other hand, the AV-8B Harrier was designed primarily to improve upon the performance and handling qualities of the AV-8A/C. It was a new design, with composite structures, a bigger wing, higher engine thrust and reliability, and state-of-the-art avionics.
“Our forces are doing both as part of the U.S. commitment to protect Libyan citizens,” added Col. Desens.
- global security.org
Original Article: Navy, Marine Corps Aircraft Strike Libya
Air Force, Navy, News AV-8B, av-8b harrier, AV8B aircraft, Harrier, Harrier AV8B, Harrier upgrade, Spanish Harrier, Spanish Navy’s Harrier
The Spanish Navy’s Harrier AV8B aircraft went through a test flight program at Cassidian Spain’s facilities in San Pablo (Seville).
The program to upgrade the configuration of the Navy’s Harrier AV8B aircraft includes, among other modifications, the installation of the 408A engine and the implementation of improvements to the structure and avionics systems, as well as the incorporation of various Technical Directives and SDLM/AGE third level maintenance.
The rest of the aircraft covered by this contract is presently at the San Pablo facilities undergoing various stages of implementation of the modifications.
The AV-8B Harrier is a single-seat, light attack aircraft that provides offensive air support to the Marine Air-Ground Task Force (MAGTF). By virtue of its Vertical/Short Take-Off or Landing (V/STOL) capability, the AV-8B can operate from a variety of amphibious ships, rapidly constructed expeditionary airfields, forward sites (e.g., roads), and damaged conventional airfields. This makes the aircraft particularly well-suited for providing dedicated close air support.
Enrique Barrientos, CEO of Cassidian Spain, comments: “Our most important objective is to meet our customer’s needs. This is a milestone in the Harrier Upgrade program and an example of our commitment to the Spanish Navy relating to the sustainment and operational support of its fixed-wing aircraft, as well as the development of new capabilities to enhance our service.”