Military Flight Release Clears F-35A for Take-off

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The F-35A Lighting II Joint Strike Fighters can take to the skies with the Military Flight Release issued last February 28. The multi-million jet fighters has been stuck with test flights until the US Air Force Aeronautical System Center issued MFR. Now, the F-35A JSF can perform initial operations at the Eglin Air Force Base in Florida.

Previously, all F-35A flights were limited to the test flights done by a select number of qualified test pilots at the Edwards Air Base in California and Naval Air Station Patuxent River flight test centers. Units of F-35A started arriving at the Eglin AFB in the summer of 2011, but stayed grounded while waiting for the MFR. Qualified Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps pilots can now fly the jet fighters starting with the Conventional Take-Off and Landing (CTOL) F-35A variant. Before the MFR clearance, these pilots can only perform taxi test and simulator flights, but could not fly the F-35A to the skies.

An airworthiness board assessed and evaluated the potential risks and corresponding remedial action for unmonitored flights of the F-3A, before issuing the MFR. The Air Force looks forward to finally see the F-35A Lightning II in the air. This will increase the pilots and maintenance staff familiarity with the aircraft, exercising the logistics infrastructure as well as develop the continued maturity of the aircraft.

“The Air Force, Joint Strike Fighter Program Office and other stakeholders have painstakingly followed established risk acceptance and mitigation processes to ensure the F-35A is ready. This is an important step for the F-35A and we are confident the team has diligently balanced the scope of initial operations with system maturity,” said General Donald Hoffman, commander of Air Force Materiel Command, the parent organization of ASC.

The Eglin Air Force Bas has two qualified F-35A test pilots. Air Force Lt. Col. Eric Smith and Marine Maj. Joseph Bachmann will act as the initial trainers for the rest of the pilots at the 33rd Fighter Wing.


F-35A Performs First External Weapons Test Mission

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An F-35A Conventional Take-off and Landing aircraft conducted the first F-35 external weapons test mission last week at the Edwards Air Base in California. The mission further push the program’s flight test envelope.

For this mission, the F-35A carried an air-to-air AIM-9X missiles on the outboard wing stations. It also flew with two internal 2,000 pounds guided bombs (GBU-31) and two advanced medium range air-to-air missiles (AIM-120) located in the two internal weapon bays of fighter jet. Four external pylons that can carry 2,000 pounds air-to-ground weapons were additionally mounted to the F-35. However, no weapons were launched during the mission.

The F-35 is a 5th generational multi-role fighter by Lockheed Martin and part of the Joint Strike Fighter family. It is part of the US Air Force most expensive defensive program.

The F-35 was designed to carry up to a maximum of 18,000 pounds load. It has ten weapon stations – four of them are in two internal weapons bay and the other six are located on the wings.


F-35C finished another carrier suitability testing

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The F-35 integrated test force completed jet blast deflector (JBD) testing at the NAVAIR facility in Lakehurst, N.J. Aug. 13 with a round of two-aircraft testing.F-35C test aircraft CF-1 along with an F/A-18E tested a combined JBD cooling panel configuration to assess the integration of F-35s in aircraft carrier launch operations.

“We completed all of our JBD test points efficiently,” said Andrew Maack, government chief test engineer. “It was a great collaborative effort by all parties.”

The government and industry team completed tests that measured temperatures, pressures, sound levels, velocities, and other environmental data. The combined JBD model will enable carrier deck crews to operate all air wing aircraft, now including the F-35C, as operational tempo requires.

Future carrier suitability testing is scheduled throughout this year, including ongoing catapult testing and the start of arrestment testing in preparation for initial ship trials in 2013.

With this, the F-35C is another step closer to initial ship trials on an aircraft carrier at sea.

The F-35C carrier variant of the Joint Strike Fighter is distinct from the F-35A and F-35B variants with its larger wing surfaces and reinforced landing gear for catapult launch, slower landing approach speeds, and deck impacts associated with the demanding carrier take-off and landing environment.

Story and Photo: NAVAIR

F-35 fleet grounded again

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The entire fleet of 20 F-35s have been grounded following the failure of the integrated power package (IPP) on AF-4 at Edwards Air Force Base on Tuesday. The Joint Programme Office (JPO) investigates the cause of a failure in the aircraft’s electrical system during ground tests.

According to a statement from JPO, the failure occurred on an F-35A conventional take-off and landing (CTOL) test aircraft, numbered AF-4, but the precautionary grounding applies to all 20 F-35s that had reached flying status.

“Once the facts are understood, a determination will be made when to lift the suspension and begin ground and flight operations,” the JPO said.

In this case, the Honeywell-built integrated power package (IPP) failed during a standard engine test following a maintenance check at 08:30 on 2 August, the JPO said.

The IPP is primarily used as both a starter for the engine and a back-up electrical system, supporting the two main generators. In March, the IPP proved its worth by activating after both generators shut-down with the AF-4 still in flight. The power generated by the IPP allowed the flight control system to keep operating until the pilot landed.

The incident marks the third grounding order for the F-35 fleet since last October, and the second in five months involving the AF-4 test aircraft.

Source: Flightglobal

JSF Program on track, officials said

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The Joint Strike Fighter Program Office deputy director expressed confidence in the progress of the JSF program at an Air Force Association breakfast program last week. The upgrades and acquisitions, particularly the completion of the new Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., training facility, helps to advance the fifth-generation F-35 Lightning II program, said Maj. Gen. C.D. Moore.

“The F-35 is at the nexus of concurrency where we are building production aircraft, conducting developmental tests, and starting to build a cadre of future Joint Strike Fighter maintainers and pilots,” Moore said.

Moore described plans for Pilot Training Center-1, a future facility where the services and their international partners will be able to train and interact. The location of the center has not been determined.

The general reported that F-35 flight science testing is making good progress at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Md., and Edwards Air Force Base, Calif. The program is building mission avionics confidence with Block 1 software. Also, AF-6 and AF-7 conventional takeoff and landing aircraft are completing maturity flights to strengthen and verify the training syllabus that will be used at Eglin AFB.

Building momentum and maintaining affordability will ensure the JSF program’s longevity into 2035 and beyond, he said.

The Joint Strike Fighter Program Office is the Department of Defense’s agency responsible for developing and acquiring the F-35A/B/C, the next generation strike aircraft weapon systems for the Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and many allied nations.


First F-35 Production Jet arrives at Eglin AFB

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The first Lockheed Martin production model F-35 Lightning II to be assigned to the 33rd Fighter Wing arrived at EGLIN AIR FORCE BASE last Thursday at 1:18 p.m. CDT. The F-35 aircraft, known as AF-9, will be used for activities in concert with training F-35 pilots and maintainers who begin coursework at the base’s new F-35 Integrated Training Center this fall.

The AF-9 is a conventional takeoff and landing (CTOL) version of the 5th generation stealth fighter. Overall, the jet is the third production-model F-35 delivered to the U.S. Air Force, with the first two assigned to Edwards AFB, Calif. It is the first aircraft delivered from Low Rate Initial Production lot two and the seventh F-35 delivered in program history to the Air Force. Over the lifetime of the program, a total of 59 F-35s will compose the fighter fleet at Eglin AFB.

“The exceptional capabilities of this 5th generation fighter are now in the very capable hands of the men and women of the 33rd Fighter Wing who are ushering in a new era of F-35 training. We look forward to delivering our full complement of F-35s to the Emerald Coast in the months and years ahead,” said Larry Lawson, Lockheed Martin executive vice president and F-35 program general manager.

The F-35A CTOL variant – designed to meet U.S. Air Force requirements – is also the primary export version of the Lightning II. The air forces of Italy, the Netherlands, Turkey, Canada, Australia, Denmark, Norway and Israel will employ the F-35A. To date, the F-35 program has accomplished more than 925 flights since late 2006.

The F-35 Lightning II is a 5th generation fighter, combining advanced stealth with fighter speed and agility, fully fused sensor information, network-enabled operations and advanced sustainment. Lockheed Martin is developing the F-35 with its principal industrial partners, Northrop Grumman and BAE Systems.

Source: Lockheed Martin

F-35 match fires up Twitter

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The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter is becoming a popular subject on Twitter, thanks in part to a tweet from Sen. John McCain.

“Congress notified that first F-35 jets have cost overruns of $771M. Outrageous! Pentagon asking for $264M down payment now. Disgraceful”, says a post of Sen. McCain sounded on Tuesday.

Manufacturer Lockheed Martin Corp. took to Twitter Wednesday in defense of the program. “The F-35 team is focused on reducing costs of the jets and is showing significant improvement in key areas,” the company said in a post Wednesday afternoon. The tweet included a link to recent Senate testimony by Tom Burbage, Lockheed’s F-35 program manager.

In reply, Sen. McCain wrote: “To most observers, a $771M cost overrun for 28 F-35s doesn’t qualify as ‘significant improvement.’ Taxpayers deserve better.”

A defense official said Congress was informed about the request to shift funds to cover F-35 cost overruns back in May. Lockheed spokesman Michael Rein said cost increases on early production models were due in part to design changes that had to be incorporated after early testing of the aircraft.

This, incidentally, isn’t the first time the F-35 has come under fire from Sen. McCain. In a May hearing, the senator complained about the “jaw-dropping” price tag for sustaining the fleet of stealthy aircraft over several decades.The company is currently in negotiations with the government over the price for a batch of 35 of the airplanes.

Source: The Wall Street Journal

F-35 To Begin Flying Initial Training

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The first two production F-35 Joint Strike Fighters (JSF) will begin flying the initial training syllabus this month at the U.S. Air Force’s test center to determine whether the aircraft is ready to begin pilot training.

The conventional-take-off-and-landing (CTOL) F-35As, Aircraft AF-6 and -7, will complete a two-month maturity evaluation at Edwards AFB, California, flying the syllabus to be used by the JSF integrated training center at Eglin AFB, Florida. “They will be flown at a fairly high sortie with the initial version of the software and inside the initial training envelope,” says Eric Branyan, vice president and deputy F-35 program manager for manufacturer Lockheed Martin.

Completion of the maturity evaluation is expected to clear the way for pilot training to begin at Eglin using F-35As from the second low-rate initial production (LRIP) lot. AF-8 will be the first aircraft delivered to Eglin.

AF-6 and -7 are in the same configuration as the LRIP 2 jets destined for Eglin, with Block 1A mission-system software and a 350-kt./4g flight envelope, Branyan says, but they are instrumented for flight testing. AF-8 and -9 are nearing delivery to the Air Force, while AF-10 and -11 are expected to fly in the next week or so, he says. They are planned for arrival at Eglin over the next couple of months and are to be used initially for pilot and maintainer ground training.

After being cleared to fly following the maturity demonstration, the Eglin jets will undergo a two-month operational user evaluation by government test pilots before training of operational pilots can begin, which is expected by November, Branyan says.

Lockheed Martin, meanwhile, is working on the curriculum, flight simulator and maintenance trainer upgrades that will be required when deliveries of LRIP 3 jets to Eglin begin early in 2012. These will have Block 1B software and an expanded flight envelope.

The first two LRIP 3 jets, CTOL aircraft AF-14 and short-takeoff-and-vertical-landing aircraft BF-13, are scheduled to be delivered to Eglin “around the first of the year,” Branyan says. LRIP 3 also includes the first international partner aircraft: BK-1 and -2 for the U.K. and AN-1 for the Netherlands.

U.S. Air Force maintainers get hands-on experience on F-35B, F-35C


Seven airmen from the Air Force’s 33rd Fighter Wing are at Naval Air Station Patuxent River for 75 days to gain first-hand experience maintaining the F-35B and F-35C variants, while those aircraft continue flight test and evaluation. They are the second group from the Wing to visit the F-35 test facility at Pax River.

Lockheed Martin is scheduled to deliver the F-35A aircraft AF-8 to Eglin Air Force Base in Florida and the first joint training squadron later this year.

“It is beneficial working around the F-35B and F35-C variants,” said Master Sgt. Timothy Weaver, crew chief, and member of the 33rd Fighter Wing. “With this being a joint program, we learn a lot about how each branch handles maintenance. We are learning how the Marines operate, how the Navy operates, and sharing how we operate.”

“The C and A variants have a lot of the same systems, but some of the parts are in different locations,” said Weaver. He serves as the lead Air Force maintainer and production supervisor over the day-to-day activities on a flight line. He was also instrumental in the stand-up of the training wing at Eglin.

Eager to know what to expect before AF-8 arrives at Eglin, the maintainers volunteered for this assignment.

Tech. Sgt. Miguel Aguirre, armament specialist, and a quality assurance specialist, is here to gain knowledge of how the Lockheed Martin team performs maintenance. He will be responsible for overseeing the contractor-performed maintenance for AF-8 at Eglin. While there are no weapons being tested yet, Aguirre is the only armament specialist in the Air Force to work directly on the F-35.

“We are the eyes and ears for the group,” said Aguirre. And from what he has seen so far, “from a maintenance perspective, the JSF is user-friendly.”

“Procedures require that we start small,” said Tech. Sgt. Lucas Delk, crew chief, who performs similar duties to the Navy’s plane captain. “It is real exciting to see the F-35, and get hands-on experience.”

Delk noted minor differences between the Air Force and Navy’s carrier variants, but said “the meat and the potatoes are the same.”

Weaver’s team looks for any opportunity to get their hands dirty, and when they cannot, they are watching and gaining knowledge. “There is always work going on,” he said.

The AF-8 test asset is currently in Fort Worth, Texas, undergoing airworthiness testing prior to transfer to Eglin. The F-35A conventional take-off and landing model is undergoing testing at Edwards Air Force Base, California.

Source: U.S. Navy

U.S. Navy to buy 680 F35s

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The U.S. Navy and Marine Corps strike fighter picture will become clearer under an updated inter-service agreement set to be signed March 14, according to a senior defense official.

The Tactical Air memorandum of understanding ratifies the Navy Department’s plan to buy 680 F-35 Lightning II joint strike fighters (JSF), and details the exact mix of variants and who will fly them. Of the total, 260 will be Navy F-35C carrier-based aircraft, 80 will be Marine F-35Cs, and 340 will be Marine F-35B short-takeoff-and-vertical-landing (STOVL) planes.

The agreement also reaffirms that Marine F-35Bs and F-35Cs will continue to rotate in and out of deploying carrier air wings, sharing commitments with Navy F/A-18 E/F Super Hornets and F-35Cs.

The agreement formalizes an earlier decision not to deploy F-35Bs from carriers, but rather to have all Marine squadrons deploying on carriers flying the same C version as their Navy compatriots. The STOVLs will operate from land bases and amphibious ships.

The first Navy F-35C carrier squadron is set to stand up in December 2015, with the first Marine F-35C squadron following a year later.

By the mid-2020s, according to Navy planners, each carrier air wing will include two Super Hornet squadrons and two Lightning II squadrons. Every fourth F-35C squadron will be a Marine unit.

The Navy continues to plan for a fleet of 10 carrier air wings, with 44 strike fighters per wing, organized into 10- and 12-plane squadrons. The Navy will field 35 strike fighter squadrons composed of Super Hornets or F-35Cs, and the Marines will field five F-35C squadrons.

- Defensenews

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