If you are among the millions of people to see a Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter at an airshow since its first public appearance at Joint Base Andrews in the US in 2011, you know there is always tight security surrounding the airplane.
A rope cordon is normally patrolled by armed security guards to keep people at a distance from the exotic fifth-generation fighter.
But spectators at the 2018 Belgian Air Force Days airshow at Kleine-Brogel Air Base in northeastern Belgium got a treat when a new Italian F-35A belonging to the 13th Gruppo (Squadron) of the Aeronautica Militare (Italian Air Force), MM7359/32-09, was being towed so close to the crowd line that the right wing actually protruded over the orange spectator fencing.
This gave some quick-thinking spectators the opportunity to briefly and gently touch the aircraft to see what it felt like and be able to say they were among the first civilians at an airshow to touch the mysterious, stealthy plane.
Aviation photographer Stewart Jack was in the right place at the right time and caught a quick video of spectators reaching up and gently touching the plane. From the behavior of the people seen in Stewart’s video, it seems like they have an understanding of how special the moment was.
“The aircraft was being towed in to the static display for the Airshow on Saturday morning. We were all queuing up to gain access to the Friends of the Air Force section when it got just a bit too close for everyone waiting. The child on his dad’s shoulders was over the moon that he managed to get a glimpse of it so close up, let along touch it,” Stewart Jack told the Aviationist.com in an interview on Facebook about his video.
Each person along the taxiway touches the F-35A gently and only for a moment, as if to just be able to say they did, or feel some connection with the sensational aircraft. For aircraft enthusiasts and plane spotters around the world it is the equivalent of shaking hands with your favorite pop music or movie star along the runway at a big event.
We’ve asked several military security personnel and public affairs representatives at airshows why security around the F-35 is so tight. “As part of its new technology the plane has sensors and equipment on the outside that shouldn’t be handled unless you are trained [how to do it] and have a reason,” One F-35A maintenance airman told us at Nellis AFB last year when asked why there is such tight security around the plane.
Moreover, the LO (Low Observability) coating is one of the aircraft’s most delicate components and for this reason any “contact” with the haze paint of the stealth aircraft by unauthorized people should be avoided, in order to prevent scratches and damages.
“Please do not shoot photos directly into the intake or under the aircraft,” one armed Air Force Security Policeman told us recently at an F-35A static display at Selfridge ANGB in Michigan.
“We just don’t need people close to the airplane. It’s a security risk and people get better pictures outside the rope anyway,” a media representative for the US Air Force told us recently at the Thunder Over Michigan airshow where two USAF F-35A Lightning IIs were on static display.
Even when media is allowed inside the rope cordon for an interview they are briefed to not approach too close to the plane or attempt to touch it as we learned while taping an F-35A pilot interview two weeks ago in Michigan.
Security for the newest and most advanced combat aircraft in the world is clearly the primary reason why spectators are not allowed to touch and walk very close to F-35s at airshows.
And like anything that is forbidden or somehow rare and exotic, this has only made people more interested in getting close to the jet. But in reality, the barriers around the aircraft and the prohibition on touching it are as much about common sense with an advanced and expensive piece of equipment as it is about security.
But for the people Stewart Jack managed to catch on video touching the beautiful aircraft with a sense of awe, it was certainly a unique moment.
After completing static, drop and durability testing on the F-35A, Lockheed Martin believes that early results indicate potential for an increased service life certification of the stealth fighter.
The F-35’s service lifetime is designed to be 8,000h, but each test airframe is required to successfully complete two lifetimes of testing, the equivalent of 16,000h. The F-35A exceeded the requirement by completing three full lifetimes of testing, 24,000h, prompting Lockheed to moot the potential service-life extension.
“We look forward to analyzing the results and bringing forward the data to potentially extend the aircraft’s lifetime certification even further,” said Greg Ulmer, Lockheed Martin’s vice president and general manager of the F-35 program. “Already certified for one of the longest lifetimes of any fighter, an increase would greatly reduce future costs for all F-35 customers over several decades to come.”
The USAF plans to fly the F-35A until at least 2070, so a longer lifespan per aircraft may allow the service to reach that goal without having to purchase new fighters. However, as aircraft age they become more expensive to maintain and operate, making it unclear if a service life extension of the F-35A would be economical.
The F-35A airframe completed its testing at BAE Systems in Brough, England. The F-35B and C variants were tested at Lockheed Martin’s facility in Fort Worth, Texas, though the company did not release the results for those variants. All variants will eventually undergo final teardown inspections at the National Institute for Aviation Research in Wichita, Kansas.
The ‘LiftWorks’ facility, which has opened at Rolls-Royce in Bristol, makes the ‘LiftSystem’ to provide F-35 fighter jets with a fan propulsion system that allows them to take off over short distances, hover, swivel mid-air and land vertically.
It is vital to the jets being able to operate from aircraft carriers, and comes ahead of the stealth jets completing their historic first trials off the flight deck of Britain’s largest ever warship, HMS Queen Elizabeth.
The site will support more than 100 jobs in the area after more than £20 million was injected into transforming the former Defence Manufacturing building into an advanced facility dedicated to developing the unique technology.
Defence Minister Stuart Andrew said:
As we build up to the iconic first F-35 take-offs from our brand-new aircraft carrier, it is timely to open this Bristol site which is making it all possible. The incredibly powerful systems made at this high-tech facility mean our jets will be able to operate from British sovereign territory anywhere across the world’s seas to fight any adversaries which threaten us. The F-35 programme is the biggest in the history of defence, and is supporting a hundred jobs here at LiftWorks - as well as thousands more right across the country.
The LiftSystem, which has a thrust strong enough to lift 17 Mini cars and a clutch that provides enough torque to turn the London Eye, was designed and developed by teams of engineers at Rolls Royce engineers in Bristol and Indianapolis.
The Bristol site is not only making the LiftFan for UK jets, but for all F-35B jets on order across the world. Production at the site has been building up since 2009, with the official opening now marking the fact that the facility is heading towards peak manufacturing levels.
British companies are building 15% by value of all 3,000 F-35s planned for production. It is projected that around £35 billion will be contributed to the UK economy through the programme, with around 25,000 British jobs also being supported.
The ‘Liftworks’ facility is one of many cutting-edge manufacturing sites across the UK contributing to the wider Rolls Royce LiftSystem contract for the F35 programme. 40% of the work under this contract takes place in the UK, supporting 900 jobs across the supply chain.
During the visit, the Minister unveiled a plaque marking the official opening of the Filton site before embarking on a tour of the facility where he met employees, apprentices and graduates.
The Royal Australian Air Force’s No. 3 squadron has received its first Lockheed Martin F-35A, the first RAAF aircraft not earmarked for the Luke AFB International Pilot Training Centre.
This is the RAAF’s ninth F-35A, with the others being used to training at Luke, says Australia’s Department of Defence.
"It is an exciting time for Air Combat Group as we transition to F-35A operations over the next few years,” says Air Commodore Michael Kitcher. “While there are challenges ahead, particularly as we prepare for the conduct of Australian-based operations next year, I am confident we are well placed to manage the transition."
The RAAF accepted the jet, A35-009, at Luke AFB in early September. No. 3 Squadron operates the Boeing F/A-18 A/B “Classic” Hornet, which the RAAF will retire.
It follows the first dropping of ordinance from another RAAF F-35A, A35-006, on 20 July. The activity took place at the Barry M. Goldwater Range in Arizona, and saw the F-35 drop two inert GBU-31v3 JDAM GPS-guided bomb which scored direct hits on their targets.
The RAAF aims to achieve initial operating capability with the type in December 2020. IOC will include weapons such as the Raytheon AIM-120 AMRAAM medium-range missile, AIM-9X Sidewinder missile, JDAMs, small diameter bombs, and the internal 25mm cannon.
Australia operates 55 single seat F/A-18As and 16 two-seat F/A-18Bs that were acquired in the 1980s. This fleet will be retired by 2022 in favour of the F-35A, of which Canberra has committed to acquiring 72 examples.
Canada will obtain up to 25 surplus RAAF F/A-18 A/Bs, of which 18 will be used to fill a capability gap while Ottawa decides on its next fighter aircraft. Seven will be used for non-flying activities such as software testing, static training, and spares.
Dutch defense minister Ank Bijleveld has eliminated the country’s budget cap for F-35 purchases, opening the possibility of buying more planes in the future, a spokesman confirmed to Defense News.
The defense ministry spokesman described the move as “just a formality” that would not require parliamentary approval, as the Dutch objective of buying 37 copies of the Lockheed Martin-made jet for €4.7 billion remains in place. But it means “we leave the option open to buy new planes” beyond those already envisioned in the budget, the spokesman said.
The development was first reported by the Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf, which wrote that the air force was angling to eventually get 67 aircraft. That amount would be enough to field four squadrons in the Netherlands, according to the newspaper.
Dick Zandee, a defense analyst at the Dutch Clingendael foreign policy think tank, said the recently released 2019 budget still reflects the government's target of buying 37 planes. But the budget cap elimination at this time could set the stage for additional contracts in a few years' time, once deliveries of the batch already on order are nearing completion.
The Dutch are set to take delivery of eight F-35s in 2019. That's in addition to two test aircraft already produced. The fifth-generation aircraft are meant to replace the country's fleet of 60 or so F-16s, with yearly deliveries scheduled between six to eight planes until the target number of 37 is reached.
That inventory will allow the Netherlands to field four F-35s for operations, considering that a certain number is always set aside for training, undergoing maintenance or otherwise unavailable to deploy, said Zandee.
“There is a lot of pressure from NATO that 37 are not enough,” he said, adding that there has been talk in Dutch defense circles to up the number to 52. “The air force always wants more” of the planes, and the service would consider an increase to 52 as an intermediate step to get an even greater number later, Zandee told Defense News.
Meanwhile, the jet is facing some pushback in the Netherlands over its development price tag and the high cost of ownership. “The criticism is that you're buying an aircraft that is not fully developed yet," said Zandee.
But, he added,"The attitude is that the Americans are throwing so many billions at the program that problems will be solved."
Lockheed Martin is in discussion with the F-35 joint Program Office on implementing a third phase of the enterprise’s affordability initiative that could potentially take the airframe price point below $80 million. Greg Ulmer, F-35 vice president and general manager at Lockheed Martin, tells Aviation Week that the second phase of Blueprint for Affordability (BFA), the company’s affordability initiative, will end in September 2019. Now is the time for the company and program to ...
U.S. Strategic Command's chief touted the Lockheed Martin (LMT) F-35 as a deterrent in Europe, where the stealth fighter could slip into defended airspace with nuclear weapons.
The Pentagon's latest Nuclear Posture Review said the U.S. is committed to upgrading aircraft in Europe with F-35s capable of carrying nuclear weapons for a "continued regional deterrence stability and the assurance of allies."
At the Air Force Association's annual conference on Wednesday, Gen. John Hyten was asked about nuclear weapons and deterrence in Europe.
"We really don't talk a lot about nuclear capabilities inside the European theater, and I'm not going to talk a lot about it today," he said. "But just think about the difference the F-35 will make in our overall deterrent capability when that comes into Europe."
So-called fourth-generation fighters like the F-15 and F-16 can also carry nuclear weapons, but they aren't stealth planes and would be detected by air defenses. The more advanced fifth-generation F-35, however, can evade radar detection.
The Air Force has said its version of the F-35 is fully compatible with the new B61-12 nuclear bomb. It's planning for initial integration on the F-35A this year, Maj. Emily Grabowski, an Air Force spokesperson told Warrior Maven in March. The B61-12 could also be air launched by F-15 and F-16 fighters and is planned for use in Northrop Grumman's (NOC) forthcoming B-21 stealth bomber.
But the upgraded nuclear weapons, which include GPS, are still in testing and won't be produced until fiscal year 2020.
Lockheed stock fell 1.8% on the stock market today, Northrop dropped 3.5%, while Boeing (BA), which makes the tail fin kits for the B61-12, rallied 0.6%. Boeing stock is still in buy range from a modest breakout Wednesday.
The push for upgraded nuclear-capable fighters comes amid increased tension in Europe against Russia.
Top U.S. allies like the U.K., the Netherlands, Norway, and Italy are purchasing the F-35, and Germany is considering buying the F-35 to carry nukes. But Berlin has also asked for Washington to look at certifying its Eurofighter to carry nuclear weapons.
Norway, Britain and Italy will have 40 F-35s by the end of the year with the Netherlands getting their first F-35 next year. Norway is expected to declare its first squadron of F-35s combat ready by October 2019.
Cubic Corporation announced Sept. 20 that its Cubic Global Defense business division, was awarded a contract from Lockheed Martin to deliver its latest-generation Air Combat Training System for the F-35 Lightning II.
Cubic is scheduled to deliver more than 500 F-35 Training Subsystems over the next four years as part of Lockheed Martin’s F-35 production Lots 12-14.
The ACTS for the F-35 includes the P5 Combat Training System Internal Subsystem configuration and the P5 ground software. P5CTS is a pod solution that relays Time, Space and Position in Information between participating aircraft during training sorties. P5CTS enables real-time, live monitoring and recorded mission data of air-to-air, air-to-ground and surface-to-air training scenarios for post mission analysis. However, unlike the previous wing-mounted P5 pods, the Internal Subsystem in the F-35 is placed inside the aircraft.
“Fifth-generation aircrew require a complex training scenario to prepare them for combat operations in a contested environment,” said Dave Buss, president of Cubic Global Defense. “With this next-generation air combat training system, F-35 fighter pilots can receive not only a dedicated training system to accurately capture exercise data but also have the capability to train with fourth-generation aircraft that carry wing-mounted pod version of the P5 Combat Training System.”
The F-35 Training Subsystems to be delivered in Lots 12-14 will add onto more than 500 low-rate initial production units that will have been delivered by Cubic prior to the start of Lot 12 production. Cubic and its principal subcontractor, Leonardo DRS, will continue to produce and maintain the embedded P5 solution for the F-35 Internal Training Subsystem. The Leonardo DRS Airborne and Intelligence Systems business division is responsible for the design and production of the airborne P5CTS Internal Subsystem. Engineering work for the ground systems will be performed in San Diego, Calif., while the airborne systems will be performed in Fort Walton Beach, Fla.
Ozair wrote:Rest of the article is behind the paywall. I think we are only scratching the surface on the cost efficiencies that are going to come from both production and subsequently sustainment for the program.
Affordability Initiative May Bring F-35 Price Under $80 MillionLockheed Martin is in discussion with the F-35 joint Program Office on implementing a third phase of the enterprise’s affordability initiative that could potentially take the airframe price point below $80 million. Greg Ulmer, F-35 vice president and general manager at Lockheed Martin, tells Aviation Week that the second phase of Blueprint for Affordability (BFA), the company’s affordability initiative, will end in September 2019. Now is the time for the company and program to ...
http://aviationweek.com/combat-aircraft ... 80-million
Planeflyer wrote:Ozair wrote:Rest of the article is behind the paywall. I think we are only scratching the surface on the cost efficiencies that are going to come from both production and subsequently sustainment for the program.
Affordability Initiative May Bring F-35 Price Under $80 MillionLockheed Martin is in discussion with the F-35 joint Program Office on implementing a third phase of the enterprise’s affordability initiative that could potentially take the airframe price point below $80 million. Greg Ulmer, F-35 vice president and general manager at Lockheed Martin, tells Aviation Week that the second phase of Blueprint for Affordability (BFA), the company’s affordability initiative, will end in September 2019. Now is the time for the company and program to ...
http://aviationweek.com/combat-aircraft ... 80-million
I read the article and got the sense that they were entering the flat portion of the cost reduction curve.
Let’s hope you are also right about further unit cost improvements. Given the precise assembly practices required for stealth it would seem that costs could really be impacted with 3d printing or composites layup. Was the F35's design just a bit too early to benefit from these approaches?
An F-35 Lightning fighter jet landed at Fresno Yosemite International airport today after declaring an engine emergency.
Two of the F-35's were flying together when the emergency happened.
The plane landed safely with the second plane covering overhead and then also landed.
Fresno airport was the closest secure airport with a military base to park the plane.
The plane was taken to The 144th Fighter Wing where it will be worked on.
FOX26 confirmed the F-35's are from Naval Air Station Lemoore.
The US Marine Corps' stealth F-35B Lightning fighter jet could fly its first combat mission within days, according to several US defense officials, who told CNN that the fifth-generation aircraft are currently aboard the USS Essex amphibious assault ship and should soon be in a position to conduct airstrikes over Afghanistan.
The USS Essex has already sailed from the Gulf of Aden into the North Arabian Sea and is expected to move into the Persian Gulf in coming days, one official said.
F-35 pilots have been conducting intelligence and surveillance missions in Somalia while on standby to conduct air support for US troops on the ground there if needed.
While available for support, the advanced fighter jet was not used in an airstrike over Somalia on Saturday that killed 18 militants after US and local forces came under attack.
In May, Israel Defense Forces said they were using their version of the F-35 in operational missions, striking at least two unspecified targets in the region.
That announcement marked the first time that the F-35 had been used in an actual combat situation -- a significant moment given the program's checkered past.
The F-35 fighter jet is touted as the future of military aviation; a lethal and versatile aircraft that combines stealth capabilities, supersonic speed, extreme agility and state-of-the-art sensor fusion technology, according to Lockheed Martin, the plane's primary contractor.
The F-35B is one of three variants of the F-35 aircraft and the only one with the ability to land vertically like a helicopter. It can also takeoff in a much shorter space than other fighter jets, which is why it can operate off the Essex, a warship only half the size of the 100,000-ton aircraft carriers in the US fleet.
However, the aircraft, which is the most expensive weapons system in history, has also drawn sharp criticism in recent years after facing a long list of setbacks -- including problems with software, engines and weapon systems. And critics have continued to express skepticism about the F-35's combat capability despite reassurances by US military leaders who say the kinks are being worked out.
The US Marine Corps declared it's first squadron of F-35s ready for deployment in July 2015. The Air Force said its version of the aircraft was combat ready in August 2016.
The Marine Corps accomplished a significant milestone last year by deploying its variant to Japan -- the aircraft's first permanent overseas deployment.
The F-35 has been a favorite of President Donald Trump who has lauded the aircraft several times for being 'invisible." The aircraft has reduced capability to be seen by adversary radars but is not invisible.
The US military's F-35B joint strike fighter conducted its first-ever airstrike in the last 24 hours, according to three US defense officials.
The strike took place in Afghanistan against a fixed Taliban target. The aircraft involved were the US Marine Corps' variant of the aircraft flying from the USS Essex amphibious assault ship.
The F-35 stealth jet has been called the most expensive weapons system in history, and its development was beset by multiple delays before it was deemed combat ready.
It is touted as the future of military aviation: a lethal and versatile aircraft that combines stealth capabilities, supersonic speed, extreme agility and state-of-the-art sensor fusion technology, according to Lockheed Martin, the plane's primary contractor.
The F-35B is one of three variants of the F-35 aircraft and the only one with the ability to land vertically like a helicopter. It can also take off in a much shorter space than other fighter jets. The Marine Corps variant was the first to be designated combat ready.
The F-35 has been a favorite of President Donald Trump, who has lauded the aircraft several times for being "invisible." The aircraft has reduced capability to be seen by adversary radars but is not invisible.
Lockheed Martin (NYSE: LMT) has selected Harris Corporation (NYSE: HRS) to develop and deliver the next generation Integrated Core Processor (ICP) for the F-35 fighter jet. The Lockheed Martin-led competition within the F-35 supply chain will significantly reduce cost and enhance capability.
The F-35’s ICP acts as the brains of the F-35, processing data for the aircraft’s communications, sensors, electronic warfare, guidance and control, cockpit and helmet displays.
“We are aggressively pursuing cost reduction across the F-35 enterprise and, after conducting a thorough review and robust competition, we’re confident the next generation Integrated Core Processor will reduce costs and deliver transformational capabilities for the warfighter,” said Greg Ulmer, Lockheed Martin vice president and general manager of the F-35 program. “The next generation Integrated Core Processor for the F-35 will have positive benefits for all customers in terms of life cycle cost, capability, reliability and more.”
The new Integrated Core Processor is a key element of the planned “Technology Refresh 3” modernization that takes advantage of fast evolving computing power to ensure the advanced F-35 remains ahead of evolving threats. Additional elements in the tech refresh include the Panoramic Cockpit Display Electronic Unit and Aircraft Memory System, which were also recompeted and awarded to Harris last year.
The Harris-built ICP will be integrated into F-35 aircraft starting with Lot 15 aircraft, expected to begin deliveries in 2023. The next generation ICP system is targeted to generate the following results compared to the current system:
75 percent reduction in unit cost
25 times increase in computing power to support planned capability enhancements
Greater software stability, higher reliability, and increased diagnostics resulting in lower sustainment costs
An Open System Architecture to enable the flexibility to add, upgrade and update future capabilities
“The new F-35 ICP will pave the way for system scalability well into the future,” said Ed Zoiss, president, Harris Electronic Systems. “Open systems are the future of avionics and Harris has invested substantial R&D to deliver more affordable and higher performance solutions than would have been possible using proprietary technology.”
The ICP selection comes on the heels of Lockheed Martin’s selection of Raytheon for the Next Gen Distributed Aperture System, which will reduce lifecycle costs by more than $3 billion, enhance reliability and increased capability.
“With production ramping up and the operational fleet growing fast, we are looking at every layer of our global supply chain to find opportunities to increase capacity, reduce production and sustainment costs, improve parts reliability and enhance capabilities,” said Ulmer.
In addition to competition, the company is transitioning several F-35 suppliers to longer term Performance Based Logistics contracts to enhance parts availability and reduce sustainment costs. Previously under annual contracts, the new 5-year PBLs allow each supplier to make longer term investments and actions to reduce costs and improve efficiencies.
With radar evading stealth technology, advanced sensors, enhanced weapons capacity, supersonic speed and superior range, the F-35 is the most lethal, survivable and connected fighter aircraft ever built. More than a fighter jet, the F-35’s ability to collect, analyze and share data is a powerful force multiplier enhancing all airborne, surface and ground-based assets in the battlespace and enabling men and women in uniform to execute their mission and come home safe.
Military official confirms that Marine F-35B fighter aircraft has crashed in Beaufort County, SC by MCAS Beaufort. Pilot is believed to have ejected, no update on pilot's status.
Beaufort County Sheriff's Office says F-35B pilot ejected safely. This has been quite a week for the F-35... The same week a US F-35 was used in combat, dropping munitions in Afghanistan, & the same day the Pentagon announced a deal with Lockheed on reduced price for the program
The agreement pushes the cost of the F-35A conventional model — used by the U.S. Air Force and most foreign buyers — to $89.2 million per aircraft, a 5.4 percent reduction from the $94.3 million in the tenth batch of aircraft.The more expensive B and C models incurred even bigger price cuts. The Marine Corps’ F-35B short takeoff vertical landing variant’s cost decreased 5.7 percent from $122.4 million to $115.5 million, while the F-35C carrier variant dropped a whopping 11.1 percent from $121.2 million to $107.7 million per unit.
Ozair wrote:That is a big plane looking small on a big deck!
steman wrote:Actually I find it quite compact. I´ve seen it (USAF A version) at static display of the ILA Air Show in Berlin few months ago and I was surprised by how small it is. But then again, it´s a single engine aircraft in the class of the F-16 so it´s not surprising.
steman wrote:On a side note, is it possible to know how many examples and to which operators have been delivered so far?
Ozair wrote:steman wrote:Actually I find it quite compact. I´ve seen it (USAF A version) at static display of the ILA Air Show in Berlin few months ago and I was surprised by how small it is. But then again, it´s a single engine aircraft in the class of the F-16 so it´s not surprising.
I also saw the F-35B recently, next to a RAF Tornado, and felt it was larger than I expected. It is a similar length to the F-16 but I find the wide fuselage to give the jet an overall larger appearance. For an RN specific comparison,steman wrote:On a side note, is it possible to know how many examples and to which operators have been delivered so far?
Given the production rate the numbers change pretty frequently. I think the first graphic at the following link is a reasonable review of what will happen by the end of the year. Apologies, for some reason I cannot get the image itself to load directly...
https://forums.bharat-rakshak.com/viewt ... start=2000
As the first F-35 stealth jets landed on Britain’s new aircraft carrier the HMS Queen Elizabeth, I thought I’d take a look at how military forces integrate warships with warplanes, and have a go at landing one myself.
I travelled to the BAE Systems plant in Warton to test my skills in the simulator. The British industry giant is the only principal partner in the F-35 programme located outside the US. The company produces 15 per cent of every F-35 and employs 2,250 people in the project, mainly in its Warton and Salmesbury plants in Lancashire.
Pete 'Kos' Kosogorin, the experimental test pilot for BAE Systems, showed me round the facility. With four years F-35 experience, plus time on Typhoon and Hawk under his flying boots, he's the steady hand you look for when flying a £90 million fighter, even in pixellated form.
The simulator consists of two rooms located side by side, each with almost 360 degree floor-to-ceiling video screens. The panels knit together seemlessly and visitors quickly forget it's not real. The rooms are linked, for maximum training benefit.
In the Flight Coordination Centre all flying operations are monitored and controlled by the Landing Safety Officer. From here, flight control data sent from the flight control system and mission computer in the aircraft is monitored and analysed. Likewise, the ship tells the aircraft the wind speed over the deck and how much headwind and cross wind there is for the pilot to be aware of.
It all seems straightforward until I notice a little spot on the screen, which I'd thought was a cloud, suddenly bloom into an F-35 fighter just outside the imaginary window. Kos starts talking in code: "We've got an aircraft doing a decel to the hover to land on four spot," he says. I nod sagely, one professional to another, whilst wondering if he's talking to me.
The pilot simulator next door can be configured for all sorts of conditions, with varying sea states, weather conditions and aircraft mass. Poor visibility or night time operations can be safely practised, as can instrument approaches.
The simulator shows an exact replica of the Queen Elizabeth, to mimic perfectly what a pilot landing on the carrier would experience. It has even been programmed to understand how the superstructure on the deck affects the airflow, so when our Navy and Air Force pilots land for real, they know just what to expect.
Kos flies the simulated F-35 through a couple of approaches, all while carrying on a smooth, unflustered commentary as if he was reading a recipe. Then it's my turn. Climbing into the cockpit I momentarily panic as I discover there's no joystick between my knees. Kos points to the control column on the right hand side of the cockpit and does well to smother a weary sigh.
Setting my jaw to maximum chisel, I fly towards the ship and start decelerating at just over a mile out. Actually the aircraft does the flying, I just tell it where I want to go. I arrive in a hover to the side of the ship at about 200 feet. Not directly over the landing spot, but off to one side so I can get a good look at where I want to go in a safe manner, but also not so far away that I can see the water.
I then move sideways in a controlled manner, hover over my assigned landing spot and make a steady descent to the deck before applying the brakes. If I want to, I can manoeuvre the aircraft by steering the nosewheel, to line up and take off once again.
The aircraft is incredibly easy to fly, exactly as it’s designed to be, to allow the pilot to concentrate on the mission.
I overshot my first approach, probably as I was a bit shocked to see a whacking great aircraft carrier in Lancashire. But after that one minor mishap I marshalled my heart of oak, had a few more goes and landed it safely every time. I could tell Kos was impressed, sort of, even if he had a sore thumb from pressing the 'reset' button.
Per adua ad astra per telegraphum, you might say.
For the first time in eight years, fast jets have been in operation from a British aircraft carrier as tests begin of F-35 Lightning IIs from HMS Queen Elizabeth. Tests will take 11 weeks, during which time more than 500 takeoffs and landings are scheduled to take place.
The jets taking part in the trials are not part of the permanent complement of aircraft that will be stationed on the carrier. These have now started to arrive in the UK, to their land base at RAF Marham in Norfolk.
The first F-35Bs to land on the carrier were piloted by Royal Navy Commander Nathan Grey and RAF Squadron Leader Andy Edgell, using the aircraft’s vertical landing capability, and shortly afterwards Cmdr Gray became the first pilot to take off from the carrier using its ‘ski ramp’. Queen Elizabeth has the capability to carry up to 24 F-35s, although the number on board any particular time will vary depending on the mission the ship is carrying out. The trials are being carried out by a group known as ITF (integrated test force), made up of British and American personnel dedicated to trials of the new aircraft. Once the tests have been completed, the permanent complement will be cleared to begin operations from the deck of the carrier.
The commanding officer of Queen Elizabeth, Capt Jerry Kidd, was by coincidence also in command of the last carrier on which Sea Harriers were in operation. “I am quite emotional to be here in HMS Queen Elizabeth seeing the return of fixed-wing aviation,” he said. “The regeneration of big deck carriers able to operate globally, as we are proving here on this deployment, is a major step forward for the United Kingdom’s defence and our ability to match the increasing pace of our adversaries. The first touch-downs of these impressive stealth jets shows how the United Kingdom will continue to be world leaders at sea for generations to come.”
Cmdr Gray was equally touched by the experience. “No words can explain how it felt to turn the corner at 500mph and see HMS Queen Elizabeth awaiting the arrival of her first F-35 jets. I feel incredibly privileged,” he said. “For a naval aviator it is always a special moment when you spot the carrier in the distance, hidden within a grey expanse of ocean. HMS Queen Elizabeth is a floating city, home to hundreds of fellow sailors and Royal Marines, and it’s been a particularly poignant day.”
The trials are taking place off the East Coast of the United States, accompanied by the Type 23 frigate HMS Monmouth and the USS Lassen, an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer. After completing them the carrier is expected to visit New York. After that, it will return to its home base of Portsmouth, and is expect to become fully operational in 2021. Meanwhile, BAE Systems is still working on Queen Elizabeth’s sister ship, HMS Prince of Wales, at Rosyth dockyard, where it is nearing completion.
It’s official — the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter will begin operational test and evaluation next month, marking one of the most significant transitions for the closely watched program. Next summer, presuming no show stoppers appear during OTE, the program will move to full production.
“On October 2, 2018, Undersecretary of Defense Ellen Lord convened an operational test readiness review, which assessed the readiness of the F-35 system and supporting resources required to execute the operational test plan,” her spokesman, Lt. Col. Mike Andrews, says in an email. “Ms. Lord certified readiness to enter operational testing after concurring with the F-35 Program Executive Officer’s recommendation on his plan to start mid-November.”
I knew the Joint Strike Fighter Operational Test Team (JOTT) had approved the move to OTE on Sept. 23, clearing the path for likely approval by Lord. But her decision also depended on any last-minute objections from Robert Behler, the congressionally-mandated Director of Operational Test and Evaluation. Behler has been much less oppositional in his language about the F-35 than his predecessor, but has continued the careful work of preparing what some call the largest, most expensive and most complex operational test in modern military history.
What does this mean for the program? “Along with its first combat sortie last week, this demonstrates the maturation of the F-35 as the centerpiece of modern US aerospace power,” Dave Deptula, a member of the Breaking D Board of Contributors and head of the Air Force Association’s Mitchell Institute, says in an email.
This has been a huge two weeks for the world’s single biggest military program, as Breaking D readers know:
First combat mission of a US F-35, a strike in Afghanistan by a Marine F-35B. (Israeli F-35As have already struck targets in Syria).
The first crash of an F-35, another Marine F-35B, near Beaufort, S.C..
First takeoff and landing of an F-35B on Britain’s HMS Queen Elizabeth.
Flight costs per hour plunge $12,000., a critical step towards reducing what the GAO once estimated would be a trillion-dollar cost to buy and operate the F-35 fleet over the decades.
Lot 11 contract finally inked, with the cost of an F-35A, complete with engine, falling below $90 million for the first time.
Now the entire program takes on the unique operational testing to which America submits its major weapons. One of the things to bear in mind about this is that much OTE data is shared with key international partners, continuing the unique transnational program management that has really distinguished this program from all its predecessors.
The F-35 production line, although meeting annual targets, is late on monthly deliveries, and the Joint Program Office has put Lockheed Martin on notice that it must step up quality or lose some incentive fees. Program Executive Officer Vice Adm. Mat Winter also said the military services have decided to upgrade all their existing jets to the Block 3 standard, but have not yet decided if they will eventually mod all their jets to a Block 4 configuration.
“We are seeing increased touch labor and rework,” Winter told reporters at a twice-annual F-35 status report briefing in Arlington, Va. The line is “not hitting ... monthly deliverables,” he said. The problem stems from “repair, rework, and scrap” of parts on the assembly line that are, for various reasons, not right. Although individually these quality escapes are not adding huge costs, Winter said, each one slows the production line; something he said can’t be tolerated as production is rapidly edging up to the full planned rate of 168 airplanes per year.
“They need more automation,” Winter told Air Force Magazine after the event, adding there’s still “too much touch labor.” He’s breaking out some of Lockheed’s award fees and holding them in reserve to provide an incentive for the company to get its processes humming along more efficiently, and with less lost time and material.
“This is not new money,” he noted, saying the incentives are already part of the contract, but Lockheed could lose some incentive fee if it doesn’t deliver aircraft more reliably.
Winter also said the services have “fully funded” modifying all their early-production F-35s to the Block 3 standard, but Winter said some may be upgraded to the Tech Refresh-2 and some to the Tech Refresh-3 configuration. The TR-2 includes the Integrated Core Processor, a “panoramic cockpit” display and memory system, and the -3 includes additional improvements. This will make a “considerable difference in reliability and availability” of the aircraft, Winter said.
Newer-production F-35s are largely achieving the desired 75 percent mission capability rates, but the earlier airplanes are the typical problem jets, he noted. The refresh will put most F-35s at an even technology level, making parts production and modification smoother and performance more predictable, he said.
“It’s an affordability issue” whether the services will boost all their airplanes to the TR-3 configuration, he said, and that has not yet been decided.
The Corps has been experimenting with an innovative slew of ways to use its rocket precision artillery system known as HIMARS.
And just recently, the Corps set another historic milestone: destroying a target by connecting an F-35B with a HIMARS rocket shot for the first time, according to Lt,. Gen. Steven R. Rudder, deputy commandant for aviation.
“We were able to connect the F-35 to a HIMARS, to a rocket shot … and we were able to target a particular conex box,” Rudder told audience members Friday at an aviation readiness discussion at the Center for Strategic & International Studies, or CSIS.
The shot was all done through data link, according to Rudder. The F-35 used sensors and pushed data about the location of the target that was then fed to a HIMARS system.
The HIMARS unit then destroyed the target.
It’s all about “sensor to shooter,” Rudder said.
The historic shot was carried out at the Corps’ latest weapons and tactics course out in Yuma, Arizona, according to Rudder.
But, the Corps has been highly innovative with its HIMARS system and has been sinking a pretty hefty investment into its rocket artillery.
Last fall, the Corps successfully fired and destroyed a target 70 km out on land from the deck of the amphibious transport dock Anchorage.
And in March, Marines with Kilo Battery, 2nd Battalion, 14th Marine Regiment practiced a rapid air to ground touchdown HIMARS shot.
The Kilo battery Marines strapped the HIMARS down in the belly of an Air Force MC-130 on its way to Dugway Proving Grounds, Utah.
When the aircraft landed the Marines rolled the HIMARS out, fired a total of four shots at two targets and then returned to the aircraft and flew back to Fort Campbell, Kentucky.
The exercise showcased the Corps ability to rapidly move the HIMARS by air and destroy a target once landing. A tactic that could prove deadly in the expanse of the Pacific where Marines will be fighting as a distributed force across ships, island and barges.
F-35B aircraft have conducted night flying trials on HMS Queen Elizabeth for the first time.
The tests were carried out with and without the aid of night-vision technology, with the pilots and aircraft handlers successfully guiding the Lightning II fighter jets onto the flight deck.
Pilots initially flew in using only ambient light and the lights on the carrier’s deck before later conducting landings using the night-vision capability in their helmets.
F-35B aircraft landed on the deck of the UK's new aircraft carrier for the first time last week - American F-35B Lightning II aircraft flown by British pilots.
British jets will land on deck when HMS Queen Elizabeth returns to the UK.
Commander James Blackmore is the Commander Air in HMS Queen Elizabeth, who is referred to as simply ‘Wings’ by the ship’s company. He said:
"The concept of night flying isn’t difficult for us.
"What we are looking at is what the new lights on board HMS Queen Elizabeth look like at night from the perspective of the F-35s.
“We’ve already done that with the rotary wing aircraft earlier this year, but now it’s crucial that we understand how suitable they are for the F-35s to operate at night from the carrier."
The stealth F-35 jets flew from HMS Queen Elizabeth for the first time last week. Royal Navy Commander Nathan Gray and RAF Squadron Leader Andy Edgell were the first pilots to land the aircraft on the flight deck of the carrier.
Now the flying trials have moved on to the next phase, including the night-time flying which up until now has only been tested in simulators or on the ground.
HMS Queen Elizabeth has been installed with specially-designed LED lightning on her flight deck to ensure light does not become too bright in night vision.
Pilots will now test their ability to land with and without night-vision assistance.
Andrew Maack, the Chief Test Engineer for the Integrated Test Force – the organisation responsible for analysing the flight trials – added: “In daytime there are cues that tell the pilot’s brain what the relative motion is between the airplane and the ship.
“At night, especially very dark night, all those cues go away and you become dependent on exactly what the lights are and what the sight of those lights looks like.
"It’s something you can’t translate in your mind ahead of time – you don’t know it until you see it."
The F-35B fighter jets are the most advanced in the British military with a top speed of 1,200 mph and a price tag of £190 million each.
The aircraft arrived at their Marham home for the first time earlier this year, with a further five arriving in August.
Britain now has 16 of a planned 138 F-35B jets.
Rather than the traditional catapult launch, the F-35B will take off from HMS Queen Elizabeth via a ski jump ramp due to the jet's short takeoff/vertical landing (STOVL) capability.
The carrier will also be joined by Commando Merlin Mark 4 helicopters during the trials.
The return of ‘Carrier Strike’ to the UK comes eight years after a fighter jet last landed on a British carrier.
The Pentagon’s acquisition executive is set to weigh in on the F-35’s modernization plan in the coming weeks, the F-35 program executive officer said Oct 1.
An update of the F-35’s acquisition strategy, which spells out the F-35’s Block 4 modernization plan and describes the agile software approach that the department intends to use to incrementally upgrade the jet, is sitting on the desk of Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment Ellen Lord, Vice Adm. Mat Winter told reporters during a roundtable.
Winter characterized the document as going through the “final administrative engagements with her staff and the [Office of the Secretary of Defense] staff,” with Lord’s approval expected “within the next couple weeks,” he said.
The Navy and Air Force acquisition executives — James Geurts and Will Roper, respectively — have already approved the plan.
Although Winter did not provide details on the revised strategy, it is anticipated to contain new cost estimates for Block 4 modernization driven by the new agile software approach, which the F-35 joint program office terms Continuous Capability Development and Delivery or C2D2.
The JPO has argued that, in order to keep the F-35 relevant against emerging, dynamic threats, it needs to be able to quickly field incremental updates to the joint strike fighter’s software.
“The challenge we have is to ensure that we can continue to deliver capability to our warfighter on an operationally relevant, technically feasible pace, and that pace needs to outpace our adversaries and potential threats on the battlefield,” Winter said Monday.
This more intensive software development effort may also boost the cost of follow-on modernization. During a March hearing, Winter acknowledged that U.S. and international customers could pay up to $16 billion for Block 4 modernization — a figure that includes $10.8 billion for development and $5.4 billion for procurement of upgrades to the F-35 between fiscal years 2018 through 2024.
However, he also stressed that this was an initial estimate, and that a more solid assessment would be provided to Lord with the revised acquisition strategy.
By contrast, the Government Accountability Office in 2017 predicted that the development phase of the Block 4 modernization effort would cost upwards of $3.9 billion, but that figure only included up to FY22 and did not include procurement costs.
The program office has laid out a total of 53 capabilities to be included in Block 4, which range from updated software to a suite of new weapons like the Small Diameter Bomb II.
The first Block 4 capabilities are set to be delivered in April, Winter said, but about 22 modifications will require the F-35 to undergo a set of computing system upgrades called Tech Refresh 3. Those “TR 3” modifications include a new integrated core processor, memory system and panoramic cockpit display.
The Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps currently plan to upgrade all of their F-35s to TR3 in the 2020s, although that could change due to operational or fiscal constraints, Winter noted.
It is still unknown whether all operational F-35s will be converted to the Block 4 version, but that decision could also affect the cost of the follow-on modernization program.
The program office is also gearing up to start initial operational test and evaluation, now slated for mid-November, Winter said. JPO officials are set to meet with Lord’s office on Oct. 2 for the operational test readiness review, which will assess the F-35 system, the resources needed to execute IOT&E and the requirements to start testing.
Once operational test has been completed, Lord will be able to make a full rate production decision, which is projected for end of 2019, he said.
The head of the Joint Strike Fighter program, Vice Adm. Mat Winter, says the crucial operating costs of the F-35 dropped significantly in 2017.
Winters told a group of defense reporters that the costs of operating the F-35 fleet dropped by $1.1 million “per tail per year across the fleet” and cited “a reduction of $12,000 per flight hour across the fleet.” The head of Pentagon acquisition, Ellen Lord, has pressed hard for F-35 operating and sustainment costs to come down, as have key allies such as Britain. The Government Accountability Office has estimated the costs of buying and operating the F-35 fleet over the 50 years could be greater than $1 trillion, a figure huge enough to worry even the coldest-blooded Pentagon budgeteer.
Winter characterized the drops as indicative of, “promise but not success,” a prudent position given the heat this issue can generate.
The Air Force Chief of Staff, the F-35’s biggest customer with a requirement for 1,763 planes, said last March he wants to see the F-35 cost as much as an F-16 does.
“Our initial target is to get them down to the equivalent or very close to what we’re currently spending to sustain fourth-generation fighters,” Gen. Dave Goldfein said in March. Of course, the F-35 is a complex and stealthy aircraft so being able to maintain it and operate it for the same amount as an older and simpler aircraft is an impressive goal.
An authoritative study of flying hour costs by the RAND Corp. offered this estimate for the two aircraft: “The normalized CPFH in budget year 2012 dollars reported in the 2013 SAR were $32,554 for the F-35A, and $25,541 for the F-16C/D.” That’s a difference of $7,013, which one could be forgiven for concluding that the $12,000 drop Winter mentioned means the military has already Goldfein’s goal.
But, as is often the case with Pentagon numbers, it’s not possible to draw a straight line from these numbers to today. We are operating on 2017 budget dollars, so the $12,000 cited by Winters would be worth less.
To better illustrate how difficult it can be to find directly comparable numbers for what would seem to be simple benchmarked numbers, see this from last year. In English, it says the Pentagon’s top cost estimaters did not produce a number for operations and sustainment, of which cost per flying hour is a key component:
“The 2016 SAR O&S cost estimate was not updated by OSD CAPE, and remains unchanged from 2015; therefore, it does not accurately reflect the O&S changes captured by the program office. The JPO O&S cost estimate increased by $23.2B (BY12$) and $35.3B (TY$). The JPO 2016 life cycle O&S cost estimate increased 4 percent from the 2015 estimate. This increase was driven by an OSD update to the FY16 fuel escalation index that increased the BY12 fuel cost per gallon, as well as a change to the DoD beddown plans that added over 135,000 flight hours and 63,000 operation aircraft years to the program. Without these two updates, the F-35 estimated O&S costs would have decreased by approximately $6.2B (BY12$), or 1 percent, from last year’s JPO estimate. The JPO’s estimated steady state cost per flying hour increased by 2.9 percent for the F-35A, 4.8 percent for the F-35B, and 0.7 percent for the F-35C. These increases were driven by an OSD update to the FY16 fuel escalation index that increased the BY12 fuel cost per gallon. Without the updated fuel escalation index the estimated steady state cost per flying hour would have decreased by 1.0 percent for the F-35A, increased by 1.9 percent for the F-35B, and decreased by 3.0 percent for the F-35C.”
So, the cost per flying hour went up for 2016 because of a Pentagon budget tool’s estimate (the fuel escalation index). Without that, it would have gone down…
I’ve asked Winter’s office for more information so we can compare apples to apples.
In other news, Winter told us that there is no change to Turkey’s status as an F-35 partner committed to buying 100 aircraft. “They pay all of their cost-share responsibilities on time. Their industrial base provides multiple parts on every F-35 and continues to provide quality industrial participation to us,” he told us. “I don’t see any indication at this time of any change to the delivery of their 100 jets.” Of course, the State Department and the White House ultimately control the sale of weapons to foreign countries, with Congress possessing the power to pass laws barring foreign sales. If we were to bar F-35 sales to Turkey it would mark an enormous shift in US policy and might well mark the beginning of the end of Istanbul’s NATO membership.
Finally, Winter noted that neither Britain nor the Marines have taken any fleet-wide actions to curb F-35B flights in the wake of last Friday’s crash near Beaufort, S.C. Normally, if a systemic problem is suspected as the cause of a major crash a fleet might well be grounded or stood down for a safety review. That, Winter noted, has not happened.
The Pentagon’s most advanced jet fighter, and also the most expensive military weapons program in the department’s history, is exceeding expectations during its first major combat deployment in the Middle East.
Marine Corps aviators and maintenance crews have worked overtime in getting the service’s version of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter ready to deal with the harsh operational environments in the Middle East and North Africa, said service Commandant Gen. Robert Neller.
“The readiness has been really good. Surprisingly good,” Gen. Neller said about the jet’s ongoing deployment with U.S. Central Command. “It didn’t just happen,” he told reporters during a Wednesday breakfast meeting in Washington, noting the time and effort put in by Marines on the ground and in the air, to keep the Corps’ F-35B variant flying and fighting.
The four-star general declined to comment on the specific operational, maintenance and logistics details Marine Corps air crews employed, to ensure the jet’s high level of readiness during its current deployment . But he did note some of the lessons learned from the jet’s current combat rotation could be applied to future deployments for the fighter.
“We will see if we will be able to develop that level of readiness,” for future F-35 integration into Marine Corps aviation units, Gen. Neller said. Dubbed the F-35B, the fighter is designed to take off and land vertically aboard U.S. Navy warships and Marine Corps air bases, specifically those located in harsh, austere environments. The F-35B is slated to replace the Corps’ fleet of AV-8B Harrier jump jets, which initially entered service in the 1960s.
Last week, an F-35B flown by aviators with Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 211 attached to the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit successfully executed an airstrike against enemy targets in Afghanistan, in support of “ground clearance operations” in the country, according to a service statement. It was the first ever combat operations for the F-35B in the skies above southwest Asia, marking a key operational milestone for the jet’s evolution within the Pentagon’s increasingly advanced arsenal.
“The opportunity for us to be the first Navy, Marine Corps team to employ the F-35B in support of maneuver forces on the ground demonstrates one aspect of the capabilities this platform brings to the region, our allies, and our partners,” said 13th MEU Commander Col. Chandler Nelms said at the time of the strikes.
“This platform supports operations on the ground from international waters, all while enabling maritime superiority that enhances stability and security,” U.S. Naval Forces Central command chief Vice Adm. Scott Stearney said of the F-35B mission in a statement, following the Afghan airstrikes.
Nearly a day after the Pentagon grounded all U.S. F-35s, the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit and all three active Marine air wings are back to normal F-35 flight operations.
On Thursday, the Pentagon announced the temporary grounding of its F-35 fleet, citing mandatory inspections for a fuel tube suspected in a Sept. 28 crash of the high-tech fighter near the Marine air station in Beaufort, South Carolina.
“Currently, all 2nd MAW [Marine Aircraft Wing] F-35B’s with Marine Fighter Attack Training Squadron 501 (VMFAT 501) have been inspected,” Marine spokesman 1st Lt. Sam Stephenson told Marine Corps Times.
Marine officials wouldn’t provide figures on how many aircraft were cleared to fly with 2nd MAW, citing operational security concerns, but the stealth fighters with 2nd MAW are currently cleared to fly out of Beaufort.
The 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing is headquartered out of Cherry Point, North Carolina, but has aircraft at Marine air stations in New River, North Carolina, and Beaufort.
“The 1st Marine Aircraft Wing is complying with the inspection requirement associated with the temporary F-35 stand down and has resumed normal F-35B flight operations with aircraft that have been found in compliance,” Maj. Eric Flanagan, a Marine spokesman, said in an emailed statement.
Marines with 1st MAW are headquartered out of Okinawa, Japan.
The 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, based out of Miramar, California, has also resumed normal F-35 flight operations, according to Maj. Josef Patterson, a Marine spokesman.
There also are F-35Bs embarked aboard the Wasp-class amphibious assault ship Essex with the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit, which just transited the Strait of Hormuz and into the Persian Gulf.
“All 13th MEU F-35Bs have been cleared to resume normal flight operations based on the results of the inspection directed by the Joint Program Office,” Maj. Joseph P. Reney, a spokesman with Marine Forces Central Command, told Marine Corps Times in an emailed statement.
But Marine officials would not provide any further details citing operational security.
“If suspect fuel tubes are installed, the part will be removed and replaced. If known good fuel tubes are already installed, then those aircraft will be returned to flight status. Inspections are expected to be completed within the next 24 to 48 hours,” the Joint Program Office said in a statement Thursday.
The pilot in September’s F-35B crash ejected safely from the aircraft.
When Marillyn Hewson met with then president-elect Donald Trump in January 2017 about reducing the costs of the F-35 fighter jet, she made an announcement that would significantly impact the North Texas manufacturing environment.
"We are going to increase our jobs in Fort Worth by 1,800 jobs," Hewson said. The Fort Worth plant was already the largest manufacturing plant in DFW with an employee count of 13,400 at the time.
Twenty two months later, Lockheed Martin Corp. (NYSE: LMT) has reached that figure. In fact, the aerospace and defense manufacturer has blown past the original goal as the company now employs 16,400 people at its massive Fort Worth facility.
The company needed more workers as it looks to ramp up production of the F-35 aircraft. The aircraft, dubbed a fifth generation fighter jet, is regarded as one of the most advanced weapons ever developed. It's also the most expensive weapons program the U.S. Department of Defense has ever taken on as the company recently announced it had brought the cost of a single aircraft down to $89.2 million.
To take on this massive uptick in employment, Lockheed Martin has hosted hiring events where it offers hundreds of people letters of intent. These hiring events include dozens of Lockheed Martin employees interviewing hundreds, and sometimes thousands, of people on one day.
A letter of intent is different from a job offer, as people who receive letters then have to pass background checks and drug screenings. As a general rule about half the people who receive letters of intent end up becoming employees.
So far, the company has hosted six of these hiring events at the Sheraton in downtown Fort Worth, which have been well publicized. There have been lessons to learn since the first event back in June 2017, said Lisa Early, Talent Acquisition manager at Lockheed Martin.
"It wasn't as streamlined as they are now," Early said about the first hiring event. "We had thousands and thousands of people show up. We hadn't got our formula right, so people did not move as quickly. I think we heard people say they stood in line for five, six, seven hours, and that definitely wasn't the experience we wanted to create."
During that first event, Early said they could have communicated more effectively with the thousands of people that came. A wide range of people showed up and stood in line, from vice presidents of large companies to receptionists and cashiers who had no experience building aircraft.
The company recently hosted its sixth hiring event in September and "we think we've got the formula dialed in," Early said. The company does a better job communicating with prospective employees about what job requirements are necessary for open roles.
In the most recent event in September, doors opened at 7:00 a.m. and by 10:00, Early said the line was just trickling in the door. A total of 820 letters of intent were handed out in September, meaning the largest hiring event took much less time than previous events.
The first time an F-35 Joint Strike Fighter crashed was on September 28, 2018, and the US grounded its entire F-35 fleet to assess and remedy the problem. The failure highlights far greater problems in the procurement and production process responsible for both the high cost and low performance of the plane.
After a US Marine Corps F-35B Joint Strike Fighter jet crashed in South Carolina last month, the US military found the cause to be a faulty fuel tube. Israel and the UK grounded their own F-35 fleets after the US announced its planes would stop flying until the fuel tube issue was fixed.
With a production price tag judged variously to be between $115 and $198 million per plane, and a total projected program cost at nearly $1.5 trillion, each plane that crashes is an equivalent financial loss to five F-16 Fighting Falcon jets; or, in greater social terms, a 100-bed hospital, like the $150 million facility being built at Augusta University, according to the Atlanta Business Chronicle.
The F-35 program is no stranger to procurement difficulties or parts quality, either. Among the problems encountered by the F-35 so far — the B version of which only flew its first combat mission the day before the South Carolina crash — have been the LEDs in their helmet displays, tires that wear out too quickly, refueling probes breaking off in mid-flight, the plane's life support system not providing adequate oxygen to pilots during flights, and being unable to fly in certain kinds of weather. Many more such problems exist. Each has impaired the ability of the plane to operate effectively and further inflated the cost per plane, as problems have to be identified and fixes found and implemented before the jets are up to "factory spec" — or what factory spec is supposed to be from the Pentagon's point of view.
Pierre Sprey, a special assistant to the Secretary of Defense and a former defense analyst who is considered to be one of the fathers of the F-16 and A-10 fighter jets, and one of the country's foremost critics of the F-35, told Radio Sputnik's Loud & Clear Thursday that the reason for both the high cost and the low quality of the plane's parts is the way the procurement system operates. Built into this system, he says, are incentives for cost overruns and corruption by military brass who go on to lucrative defense contracts after they retire.
"The fundamental reason" the US military continues to use the F-35, despite its numerous shortcomings compared to the warplanes it was due to replace, "is the flawed — I should say corrupted — acquisition process that unfortunately now is running acquisition in the Pentagon. The fundamental problem is very simple: we let Air Force and Navy and Army and Marine generals go to work for contractors who are building weapons that these generals have had influence over while they were on active duty. It's gotten so bad that close to 90 percent of generals involved with air, either with helicopters or Air Force fighters or Marine or Navy fighters, go to work for contractors when they retire. As long as we as a nation permit that to continue, we will never have decent, effective air power. It's impossible when those kind of incentives are operating with that kind of huge money."
Noting how contractors working on Pentagon projects have placed their subcontracts in nearly every single congressional district in the country, Sprey told hosts John Kiriakou and Brian Becker that this was "a way of influencing the Congress to vote in ways that are not in the interests of national defense and not in the interests of the taxpayer."
Sprey noted that those kinds of decisions — for example, to build a certain component in Montana instead of Georgia — aren't simply changes in location; spreading around the F-35 pie so most of Congress gets a piece carries a "penalty [that] is very, very high." He noted that such operations have to outsource for parts more, which "makes control of the production very, very difficult." Further, the best contractors might not be available in those districts, meaning "second-rate contractors" pick up the tab and likely don't build the part to specifications. "You can't fire him, because you need that senator, right? So effectively you've lost control over your production process because you've let politics interfere in the selection of the sources for the parts you need."
Sprey noted that scheduling is plagued by the same problems for the same reasons.
"So you wind up with a bunch of major quality control problems that of course affect the safety and the maintenance of the airplane," the former defense analyst said.
"This was so bad, in a recent example, on the F-22, also built by Lockheed like the F-35, they actually had something called a shim line, where when they got bad parts in, instead of sending them back to the contractor to get them built to correct specs — which would take a lot of time, and they were falling behind on schedule — they would actually have a special assembly line where they would take these somewhat out-of-spec parts, and they would kind of ‘shim' them to fit. In other words, we were going back to the kind of primitive, hand-built production that people were doing before mass production was invented in the 19th century!"
Sprey described how this can create real problems when the part breaks later on and "the 19-year-old mechanic on the flight line" has to order a new part that isn't quite the same as the one shimmed onto the plane during production. "Now he has to apply the kind of expertise and years of experience it takes to shim the part into place — you can't expect him to be able to do that."
As to the question of battlefield efficacy, the former special assistant to the secretary of defense said that "the do-everything, ‘Swiss knife' of airplanes" is "like a screwdriver and a saw and a hammer all combined into one, and obviously it doesn't do any of those three very well. Multi-mission airplanes never do.
"This airplane was supposed to do close [air] support," he said, noting it is "hopelessly inferior, incurably inferior to the A-10," the plane it was supposed to supplant, "at actually supporting troops, getting in close on very dangerous, close-in firefights and not killing our own people. That's the problem: when that airplane tries to get in close — which it has to, to really distinguish friend from foe — it will get shot to pieces. So it can't do it, and that means it's going to be trying to distinguish friend from foe over imperfect video links and stuff like that from 15 or 20,000 feet, and Americans will die."
Multirole jets have already been demonstrating these issues in Iraq and Afghanistan, "mostly in the case of high-speed, high-altitude bombers and fighters. The A-10 has far less of that problem — both because it can get in close and because the pilots are 100 percent for close support. Remember, a multi-mission airplane carries a multi-mission pilot, so he's gotta split his time between close support and deep-strike bombing and air-to-air, and he's not going to be that good at any of them, just like the airplane isn't good at any of them."
The plane suffers in its deep strike bombing role "because of its stealth," he said, because "right now the F-35s that are flying can carry two bombs" due to the necessity of storing the weapons inside its internal bomb bay to maintain stealth capabilities — "a ludicrous payload."
The Israeli Air Force has returned its squadron of F-35I fighter jets to active duty, days after all F-35 aircraft were grounded, following an accident involving a similar aircraft in the United States Marine Corps.
Last week, the IDF ordered all F-35I aircraft removed from active duty until full examinations of each aircraft were completed.
The decision was made after the US grounded its own F-35s, following the loss of an F-35 operated by the US Marines Corps. A post-crash investigation found that a faulty fuel pipe in the engine caused the crash.
The lost Marine F-35 was a F-35B model of the plane, adapted for use on carriers and smaller amphibious assault ships. The F-35B is capable of takeoffs from short runways, and is capable of executing vertical landings, much like the Harrier aircraft.
Despite the differences, the Israeli Air Force removed all F-35I aircraft from active duty, and coordinated its examinations of the planes with the manufacturers, including Lockheed-Martin and Pratt & Whitney, which produces the engines used in the F-35.
“The Commander of the IAF, Maj. Gen. Amikam Norkin decided that the F-35I aircraft will return to full activity in the IAF after a professional inspection of all aircraft, which was run by the Technical Array of the IAF,” the IDF said in a statement Sunday.
“The checkups were done in accordance with the information that was received by the US Joint Program Office (JPO) and the engine manufacturer (Pratt & Whitney), after the accident that occurred in the United States Marine Corps. We emphasize that the accident occurred in the type B aircraft, which the IAF does not possess. Therefore, the IAF F-35I aircraft will be brought back to full regular operational activity.”
The F-35B conducted the first ever shipborne rolling vertical landing (SRVL) this weekend aboard UK’s newest aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth. The UK is the only nation currently planning to use the manoeuvre, which will allow jets to land on board the carrier with heavier loads, meaning they won’t need to jettison expensive fuel and weapons before landing.
British test pilot Peter Wilson made history when he conducted the first ever SRVL this weekend – a method which looks like a conventional aircraft landing but requires even more intense skill and precision.
Previously the jets have conducted only vertical landings, hovering by the side of the ship before moving sideways over the deck and gently lowering down.
A rolling landing however requires the jet to make a more conventional landing approach, approaching the ship from behind at speed, before using thrust from its nozzle and lift created by air over the wings to touch down and gently come to a stop.
The UK is the only nation currently planning to use the manoeuver, which will allow jets to land on board the carrier with heavier loads, meaning they won’t need to jettison expensive fuel and weapons before landing.
Peter Wilson, a British test pilot from BAE Systems, said: “I’m excited and thrilled to have achieved this. I’ve worked on this for the past 17 years and it’s fantastic to know that it’s matched the modelling and simulation we have done over the years.
“I’ve flown more than 2,000 SRVLs in the simulator, and am honoured to have been able to do the first one on board HMS Queen Elizabeth.”
As important as the pilot in the cockpit was the Royal Navy’s Lieutenant Christopher Mould, the ship’s Landing Safety Officer.
Taking his place in the ship’s packed, but eerily silent, flying control centre he had the final say over whether the jet could land in this way. With seconds to go before the touchdown, his call allowed the historic landing to take place.
“It was a pretty intense experience,” said Lt Mould. “It’s the first time we’ve ever done it. As the independent checker, I have to make sure that what we are seeing in the flying control centre is also what the pilot is seeing and call it as I see it.”
Another test pilot on board is Major Michael Lippert of the US Marine Corps. He said America was watching this part of the trials on board Britain’s carrier particularly closely. The USMC, which also flies the F-35B variant used by HMS Queen Elizabeth, will join the ship when she deploys operationally for the first time in 2021.
Maj Lippert said: “This is one of the main reasons we are here. It is of interest to the service at large and we are learning from each other. I will have the honour of conducting the first SRVL at sea for the US military so I’m excited. It’s what we all join up for – this is truly experimental test flying.”
Commander James Blackmore, the Commander Air on board HMS Queen Elizabeth – also known as ‘Wings’ – said: “This is the first step in proving this capability, and another milestone in aviation for the Royal Navy. It’s fantastic to have achieved this – it was textbook and just what we expected.”
Commodore Mike Utley is the Commander of the UK’s Carrier Strike Group. He added: “What today’s milestone eventually means is that we will give our strategic leaders even more choice.
“Pushing this ever expanding envelope means we can achieve the effects they require from us. Yet again we have demonstrated the seamless co-operation between the UK and US, but more essential than that is how that will translate into future operations.”
Squadron Leader Andy Edgell RAF, the lead test pilot for the flying trials programme, said: “It could not have gone any better and it was obvious to anyone watching that we were watching a moment in history being made for Royal Navy aviation.
Now we will focus on putting all four of our test pilots here through the same process to achieve the widest breadth of data possible on the landings.”
HMS Queen Elizabeth continues her flying trials – on a deployment called Westlant 18 – along with her escort ships HMS Monmouth and US destroyer USS Lassen.
She left her home port of Portsmouth in August, crossing the Atlantic with embarked Merlin Mk2 anti-submarine helicopters from 820 Naval Air Squadron at RNAS Culdrose and Merlin Mk4 helicopters from 845 Naval Air Squadron at RNAS Yeovilton.
More than 1,400 sailors, flight crew and Royal Marines have been working on board the carrier during her deployment.
The Royal Navy's two new aircraft carriers, HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales, will project British military power across the globe for the next half a century.
Construction work continues at a pace on board HMS Prince of Wales, the second aircraft carrier in the class, which nears completion at the Rosyth shipbuilding yard.
They will be used to provide humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, strengthen defence relationships with our nation’s allies, and support British armed forces deployed around the world.
In recent operations, US aircraft carriers including the USS George HW Bush and USS Harry S Truman have played a central role in the Gulf and Mediterranean, conducting strikes against Daesh in Iraq and Syria.
HMS Queen Elizabeth is on track to deploy on global operations from 2021. Meanwhile, the UK has now taken delivery of 16 out of a planned 138 F-35 jets as part of its world-leading fleet of military aircraft for use by the Royal Navy and Royal Air Force.
Ozair wrote:Some very interesting comments from Adm Winter. LM have been behind on delivery targets and the US Gov has now changed the contract structure to improve LM's performance. As I indicated earlier in the thread LM is still learning how to build the jet and their continued improvement will further reduce the cost and improve the quality of delivery.
The Pentagon has lifted a suspension on flights for most of Lockheed Martin Corp.’s F-35s after the jet’s first crash prompted inspections of the fleet.
“After completing inspections, more than 80 percent of operational F-35s have been cleared and returned to flight operations,” the Defense Department’s F-35 program office said Monday in a statement. “All U.S. services and international partners have resumed flying with their cleared aircraft.”
Flights had been suspended last week for inspections of a fuel line that investigators believe may have contributed to the crash of an F-35B, the Marine Corps model of the plane, near Beaufort, South Carolina, on Sept. 28.
Replacement fuel lines are available for about half of the remaining planes and others “are expected to be cleared for flight over the coming weeks,” according to the statement.
The Ministry Of Defence (MOD) has announced that five of the UK's 16 F-35B fighter jets require a replacement fuel tube after engine inspections.
It comes after the F-35 Joint Program Office (JPO) issued an enterprise-wide inspection of a fuel tube within the engine on all F-35 aircraft after a US F-35B crashed in South Carolina.
Inspections on the UK fleet of F-35Bs revealed that five of the 16 aircraft were found to be in need of a replacement fuel tube - 20% of the fleet.
However, 80% of the UK's F-35Bs were cleared to resume flight operations following inspection.
One out of the nine operational aircraft at RAF Marham is affected by the problem.
An MOD spokesperson said: "We have concluded the inspection of all our F-35s, and the vast majority have been cleared to resume all operations.
The RAF’s Voyager Air-to-Air Refuelling (AAR) tanker has completed the first UK refuel of the F-35B Lightning II jets.
The refuel took place on the 16th October 2018, over the North Sea at 19000ft. The Voyager, based at RAF Brize Norton, home to the RAF’s Air Mobility Fleet is no stranger to refuelling fast jets, being the RAF’s sole AAR capability. The Voyager KC. Mk 2, is equipped with two underwing pods for refuelling fast jets, and the Voyager KC. Mk 3 has an additional centreline hose for use by larger aircraft.
Inert 500lb GBU-12 Paveway II laser guided bombs dropped on a test range on east coast of the US
US Navy under Obama: SEALS kill bin Laden in daring raid.
US Navy under Trump: formerly peaceful ally goaded to point they send only carrier to our coast to brazenly bomb us. No opposition offered.
The F-35 is set to move into operational testing next month — a major milestone that precedes the Pentagon’s decision on whether to begin full-rate production of the jet — but there are already signs that it may not be able to complete testing on time.
Furthermore, the F-35 joint program office is still assessing what impact a recent fleet-wide inspection of the F-35 enterprise for faulty fuel tubes will have on its Nov. 13 start date — though the JPO remains confident that it can wrap up needed repairs in time for operational tests to begin in November.
The Pentagon is aiming to wrap up initial operational test and evaluation, or IOT&E, on schedule in July 2019 despite a two-month delay in starting the tests, according to a Sept. 14 PowerPoint presentation by F-35 test director Air Force Col. Varun Puri, which Defense News obtained.
However, it will but will have to move through test points at a rapid pace and accept additional risk in order to make that deadline, stated the document, which described the readiness of the F-35 to begin testing.
Puri’s presentation specifies a Nov. 13 target date for the F-35 to begin the formal IOT&E process.
Nov. 13 remains the projected start data “pending completion of the remaining readiness actions,” stated F-35 JPO spokesman Joe Dellavedova in response to emailed questions, although “impacts from a mandatory fuel system inspection are being assessed,” he acknowledged.
Last week, all U.S. and international F-35s were momentarily grounded to allow for a fleet-wide inspection of the jets for a defective fuel tube that was found in the Marine Corps’ investigation into a Sept. 28 F-35B crash near Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort in South Carolina.
By Monday morning, more than 80 percent of about 300 F-35s already in service had returned to flight, and about half of the impacted jets can be fixed using the existing spare parts inventory. Pratt & Whitney, which produces the F135 engine for all F-35 variants, is racing to procure more parts so that the remaining aircraft can be cleared in the coming weeks. However, questions still remain on whether Pratt or the U.S. government will be on the hook for paying for retrofits.
While a short deferment of a couple days or a couple weeks is usually not a significant barrier — and could turn out inconsequential in the F-35 program’s case — the test plan does not leave much room to absorb delays.
The Joint Strike Fighter Operational Test Team, or JOTT, still believes it can complete IOT&E by the original July 2019 goal, but only by “reducing re-fly assumptions and assuming more risk” — or in layman’s terms, lowering its estimates of how many tests it will need to redo in order to complete the test program and leaving little margin for flight cancellations due to weather or other factors.
In the “worst case scenario,” completion of operational testing could occur as late as Sept. 2019, which could add budget pressure to the program, Puri’s presentation said.
It’s unclear what form those budget pressures would take. “IOT&E is fully funded through September, if required,” said DellaVedova, but the JPO did not respond to a question on whether additional funding would be needed if testing slipped even further, into the new fiscal year starting on Oct. 1.
When asked about the specific types of risk the Pentagon will assume in order to complete IOT&E on time, the JPO did not provide specifics, saying that it was up to the JOTT and the Pentagon’s Director of Operational Test and Evaluation to lay out the schedule.
“Operational testing will be executed in the most expeditious and efficient manner possible, while ensuring test adequacy is met, with continuous assessments of progress toward test objectives based on collected data,” DellaVedova said.
The formal IOT&E period was initially scheduled to begin Sept. 15, but was pushed back two months to allow for the delivery of the latest version of software, called 30R02.03. Robert Behler, the director of operational test and evaluation (DOT&E), said in an Aug. memo that the new software was needed to correct deficiencies with the F-35’s Air-to-Air Range Infrastructure system, which will allow testers to evaluate the jet during range-based testing.
Preliminary IOT&E activities began earlier this year, and included two ship missions against low-end threats, cold weather tests and a close-air-support assessment.
Earlier this month, the Defense Department’s top acquisition official — Ellen Lord, undersecretary of defense for acquisition and sustainment — certified that the F-35 was ready to begin IOT&E, concurring with the F-35 joint program office’s recommendation to start testing in mid-November, said her spokesman Lt. Col. Mike Andrews in a statement. The decision was made after an Oct. 2 operational test readiness review.
Currently, the Defense Department is slated to make a decision on full rate production by the end of 2019, but IOT&E activities will need to be complete before a declaration is made.
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