Farnborough 2012: Lockheed reveals F-35 HMD upgrade plan
09 July 2012 - 6:00 by Andrew White in Washington, DC
Lockheed Martin has outlined a three-point upgrade plan for the F-35 Lightning II helmet-mounted display system (HMDS) ahead of a proposed critical design review (CDR) scheduled towards the end of the year, company officials have said.
According to Steve O'Bryan, VP for F-35 programme integration at Lockheed Martin, a CDR will be conducted on both the Vision Systems International (VSI) and BAE Systems HMDS solutions. A final downselect of helmet for the programme will be made at a later date, he added.
'We are confident that we can deliver requirements to the warfighter. But until we do that, we will continue on a dual-path strategy with VSI and BAE Systems,' O'Bryan explained. 'Once Lockheed Martin, the Joint Strike Fighter Program Office and governments feel requirements have been met, then we'll make a decision.'
In October, BAE Systems was awarded a contract to deliver an HMDS for the programme for use with detachable night vision goggles.
O'Bryan announced a three-point plan which is scheduled to be implemented over the next few months. This will comprise 'small tweaks in technology' to remedy latency issues; the addition of micro-IMUs to stabilise imagery for the pilot; and integration of a night vision, near-IR cameras to be mounted in the nose of the aircraft.
'Latency is the difference between reality and the IR world. How do they line up and what's the delay required? How perfect does it have to be in milliseconds?' O'Bryan asked.
Referring to stabilisation issues, O'Bryan said micro-IMUs were already undergoing tests in the laboratory and would begin flying in the next couple of months where Lockheed Martin will then process flight test results and pilot feedback.
In addition, he said the near-IR camera, based on US Army-based technology, would also generate test results over the next few months. 'Night acuity comprises the DAS system working at night and providing the ability to have focus or acuity to land on a ship, lights out, at night,' O'Bryan said.
To date, all of the F-35's 2,000-plus test flights have been conducted with the VSI HMDS including night flights and night refuelling, O'Bryan described. However, the system has come under criticism for lack of acuity, latency and 'jitters'.
One Lockheed Martin test pilot associated with the pilot described the VSI helmet as 'outstanding' but conceded that it wasn't perfect, saying issues with jitters had to be resolved.
Meanwhile, O'Bryan dubbed the BAE Systems HMDS as a 'legacy-based, lower technology' solution which was brought in to provide risk reduction in order to meet programme requirements should the VSI HMDS fail to deliver. BAE Systems' HMDS has yet to be flown on F-35, he added. VSI comprises a joint venture between Rockwell Collins and Elbit Systems.
FARNBOROUGH: Lockheed ready to deliver UK's first F-35
By: Craig Hoyle Farnborough
10:00 8 Jul 2012
Lockheed Martin (chalet D9-10, OE8) will deliver its first F-35 Joint Strike Fighter to an international customer on 19 July, with the UK to formally accept short take-off and vertical landing (STOVL) test aircraft BK-1.
The milestone will take place at Lockheed's Fort Worth site in Texas, where F-35B BK-1 flew for the first time on 13 April. Following its acceptance, the aircraft will be flown to Eglin Air Force Base in Florida, where it will join a US-led initial operational test and evaluation programme for the F-35.
A second UK aircraft has recently undergone preparations to conduct engine runs at Fort Worth, and will be flown soon. Its delivery is scheduled for two or three months after BK-1, according to Steve O'Bryan, Lockheed's vice-president F-35 programme integration and business development. A third STOVL jet will be produced for the UK during the programme's fourth lot of low-rate initial production (LRIP-4).
The F-35B will replace the BAE Systems Harrier GR7/9s previously flown by the Royal Air Force and Royal Navy, after the UK government dropped plans to switch to the carrier variant F-35C in May. A decision on how many aircraft to procure will be made as part of its next Strategic Defence and Security Review in 2015.
O'Bryan says testing of the F-35 remain ahead of Lockheed's planned schedule for 2012. By 30 June, aircraft in all three variants had made a combined 595 flights and achieved 4,800 programme test points: 34% and 14% ahead of target, respectively.
Partner nations Australia, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Turkey and the UK are all expected to approve orders for long-lead production items for LRIP-7, while Israel and Japan have both signed letters of offer and acceptance for F-35A purchases. "The facts show an international programme that's healthy and growing," O'Bryan told Flightglobal at the Royal International Air Tattoo at RAF Fairford, in Gloucestershire on 6 July.
With all current aircraft involved in flight testing, training or operational test activities in the USA, O'Bryan says a decision on when to deploy the F-35 for its first appearance at a European air show will be "a government call".
Picture: Airspace user Maverick
Australian parts suppliers feel pinch
Date July 9, 2012
Hey shit happens! I feel very little sympathy for someone hurting due to lack of orders, that's life as it is at the moment..........live with it or pull out.................
Australian firms that have signed up to supply parts for the trillion-dollar Joint Strike Fighter program would already be feeling the pinch from deferred orders and US government budget cuts, the next head of Lockheed Martin has said.
Christopher Kubasik, currently the multi-national defence contractor's president and chief operating officer, was in Canberra for the opening of Centennial House, Lockheed Martin's new Australian headquarters.
He steps up to chief executive officer next January 1 and will have the final responsibility for delivering the JSF, the most expensive defence contract in history.
Mr Kubasik said that increased commercial pressure on small to medium enterprises that have signed to supply components for the fifth generation fighter was emerging as an ''unintended consequence'' of recent United States and Australian decisions to delay orders and would be made even worse if sequestration cut a further 10 per cent out of the US Defence budget.
One Australian JSF components supplier, Melbourne's Production Parts, has already gone under for a range of reasons, not all of which can be linked to the slowdown in stealth fighter orders.
Quickstep Holdings, an Australian composite materials pioneer with JSF contracts expected to generate work worth $700 million over the next 20 years, opened a new plant at Bankstown Airport last week.
Lockheed Martin signed a contract with Quickstep for composite wing flaps for the company's C-130J Hercules in March worth between $75 million and $100 million over the next five years.
A spokesman said this had been done in a bid to ''balance some of these [JSF] issues with orders from other elements of the portfolio''.
Mr Kubasik said Lockheed Martin was not in a position to provide direct financial support to suppliers who lost out because they were getting less work than anticipated. The company had already invested $1 billion of its own money in capital and research over the last decade and was sharing the pain.
It made sense, where possible, to allocate work from other contracts to the SMEs to help them through.
''That makes better business sense because we get a product,'' he said. ''I don't think we as a corporation will be in a position - and nor would our board of directors allow us - to carry or fund suppliers. I just don't think that is good business practice.''
Asked if Lockheed Martin was more inclined to provide alternative work to contractors rather than something akin to a social security program he said that was the case. ''Right, that's a good way to put it - but that was your quote, not mine.''
Lockheed Martin is celebrating its centenary, hence the name of the new Canberra headquarters, which will eventually house 200 workers.
It was established in 1912 when Glenn Martin was encouraged to assemble an innovative bi-plane by Orville Wright. His company later merged with Allan and Malcolm Lockheed's firm.
Read more: http://www.canberratimes.com.au/nati...#ixzz2083V7Z6c
First Lot 3 F-35s Finally Transferred to Pentagon
By Amy Butler firstname.lastname@example.org
Source: AWIN First
July 10, 2012
Lockheed Martin has finally begun delivery of the latest lot of F-35 Joint Strike Fighter aircraft to the Pentagon after a roughly six-month delay.
The Pentagon has accepted delivery of three conventional takeoff and landing (CTOL) variants and one short-takeoff-and-vertical-landing (Stovl) version, says Marillyn Hewson, the incoming chief operating officer of Lockheed Martin, F-35 prime contractor.
The low-rate-initial-production (LRIP) 3 aircraft were slated for delivery by the end of 2012. All 17 of the aircraft--two F-35Bs for the UK; one F-35A for the Netherlands, 7 F-35As for the U.S. Air Force and seven F35Bs for the U.S. Marine Corps--in this lot are off of the company’s Fort Worth assembly line. With the Dutch government in “caretaker status” in advanced of national elections, the socialist party has pushed the country to back off of its commitment to the F-35; however, a conservative win would likely reinstate support for the program. Thus, the commitment from the Netherlands remains unfirm.
The LRIP 3 aircraft had been awaiting official acceptance via the official “DD250” process managed by the Pentagon, says Vice Adm. David Venlet, the F-35 program executive officer. He said last month that the paperwork was taking longer than planned for the turnover process, which is says is “not unnatural” early in the production process.
The four new aircraft, which include the Block 2A software, will join 12 already at Eglin AFB, Fla., Hewson says. The Block 2A software will feature a new multi-level security package.
Six of the F-35As at Eglin are being used for an operational utility assessment this summer; pilots will fly the aircraft to test out a rudimentary pilot training syllabus. The results of this assessment will determine whether the Air Force is comfortable giving the nod to start official pilot training. That is not expected to happen before 2013.
First Bomb Drop Ahead For The F-35
By Amy Butler
Source: Aviation Week & Space Technology
July 09, 2012
Amy Butler Washington and Fort Worth
Pentagon officials are satisfied with the pace of flight testing in the nine-nation F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program. However, the initiation of pilot training has once again slipped and prime contractor Lockheed Martin's production pace fell behind owing to a recent strike at the company's Fort Worth final assembly plant.
Despite these hurdles, the project—which has been mired in turmoil for years because of delays in flight testing and multiple multibillion-dollar cost overruns—has “nothing shocking or alarming going on,” says Vice Adm. David Venlet, the Pentagon's F-35 program executive officer. “This is a time of quiet stability for the program.”
Venlet opted not to attend the Farnborough air show, choosing instead to remain in Washington to oversee the program's progress. Senior defense officials from the U.K. will, however, be traveling to Lockheed Martin's Fort Worth facility this month for a ceremony to commemorate acceptance of their first F-35B.
Training for F-35 pilots is slated to begin no earlier than 2013, according to U.S. Air Force Col. Andrew Toth, commander of the 33rd Fighter Wing at Eglin AFB, Fla., the first F-35 training wing. This will mark when the Block 1B software needed for flight training is slated for delivery to Eglin.
Meanwhile, program officials are focused on continuing the pace of flight trials, a key requirement to continue burning down the excessive concurrency between the testing and production phases. In recent months, a major focus has been on preparing for the first F-35 weapons drop, which is slated for the fall, says Venlet.
The test team has already executed load and fit trials for the weapons bay. The aircraft has also been flown in various maneuvers with the weapons bay loaded and doors open to evaluate stresses. This includes carriage of 5,200 lb. of munitions supersonically. Finally, the aircraft has been loaded for external carriage of weapons; though this negates the aircraft's low radar cross section, the external positions offer more flexibility for users to carry various munitions and missiles.
“The lessons are tracking with our predictions,” says Steve O'Bryan, vice president for F-35 business development for Lockheed Martin.
The lessons, however, are not considered major by Venlet, who describes the fixes as merely tweaks to various bolts and supports needed to ensure that maneuvers in the most stressing regimes can be executed. The first weapons test will include a bomb drop, followed later by the release of Raytheon's AIM-120C7, the medium-range air-to-air missile of choice for allied nations. Weapons testing was a major requirement for Lockheed Martin's portion of its fee for the F-35 development contract in 2012.
Though Venlet is satisfied with the progress of weapons testing on the aircraft, other work continues to lag. The Block 2A software—which will facilitate expanded weapons capability (such as the use of precision-guided munitions), improved sensor fusion in the cockpit and data-linking—was slated to be delivered late last year for testing. It will now be delivered to the fleet in low-rate-initial-production (LRIP) 4 aircraft at the end of this year, says Orlando Carvalho, F-35 vice president at Lockheed Martin. The 2A software is being tested by F-35As at Edwards AFB, Calif., and is slated to be used in training in July 2013, says Lorraine Martin, Lockheed Martin's F-35 deputy program manager.
This software is behind about three months, says Venlet. Though he characterizes the delay as small relative to the overall test program that continues through 2017, it is a “very serious three months for me,” he notes. When the program was rescheduled in 2010, some capabilities—including various radar modes, data-linking capabilities and messaging formats—were slipped to Block 2 from Block 1 in order to simplify the work into more achievable increments, he notes.
The 2A software, which has begun flying at Lockheed's facility in Fort Worth, was slated to be delivered for flight testing in midsummer, says Venlet. The lag is partly owing to a slip in developing the 1B software release last year. 1B will be delivered on the LRIP 2 and 3 aircraft, and includes basic navigation, communications, sensors and “limited simulated weapons,” according to government officials. This software package will be used for initial flight training at Eglin; currently aircraft there have the 1A software. The 1A package supports basic pilot training and qualification as well as maintenance training.
However, the 1B release to Eglin is near, according to government officials.
The U.S. Air Force needs the 1B software in order to begin its F-35A operational utility evaluation (OUE), a three-month phase of flying required to determine if the aircraft are ready to conduct routine training operations. Toth says his wing plans to use all six F-35As at Eglin for the OUE phase, and pilots will follow the 1A software syllabus, which will include only basic flying and navigation. The first six weeks of the plan will be restricted to academics for the trainees, and the final six will include flights.
Four pilots will participate in the OUE phase.
Data generated from the OUE, such as sortie turn rates and aborts, will be used by Air Education and Training Center Commander Gen. Edward Rice to assess readiness for formal training.
F-35A flights are ramping up from roughly eight per week in June to 14 in July and 16 in August, says Toth. The F-35B just began flying at Eglin and achieved 6.7 hr. in the air as of May, the latest available figure.
The Marine Corps plans an OUE process similar to the Air Force's prior to beginning formal pilot training for the F-35B, though the time required may be trimmed owing to lessons learned from the Air Force. The Marines, meanwhile, are required to conduct 120 hr. of local familiarization flights prior to beginning their own OUE.
Toth says it is unclear whether a mini-OUE will be needed in the future for additional software releases.
The F-35s employing the 1A software at Eglin are slated for retrofit to the 1B package, a process that should not take more than two weeks per aircraft, he says.
Though expected in December, a trove of LRIP 3 aircraft carrying the 1B package is slated for delivery to the Florida base this month, says Venlet. All 17 of the LRIP 3s have been assembled; nine are flying and awaiting acceptance by the Pentagon, says Michael Rein, a Lockheed Martin spokesman. This type of delay is “not unnatural early in a program,” says Venlet, adding that a “healthy delivery” is expected soon, once the paperwork is complete. LRIP 3 includes seven F-35As for USAF, seven F-35Bs for the Marine Corps, two F-35Bs for the U.K. and a single F-35A for the Netherlands.
Challenges with the multilevel security required on the 1B software pushed the effort behind, Martin acknowledges. She says Lockheed intends to reduce the three-month slip as much as possible. And an additional laboratory established as part of the $4.9 billion restructuring last year is helping. It is now being converted to testing the 2B software, which will be the package used by the Marines to declare initial operational capability following flight testing.
The 2B release will allow for basic close-air-support and interdiction activities as well as initial air-to-air and data-linking capabilities. Weapons included will be the AIM-120C7, Joint Direct Attack Munitions and the GBU-12 laser-guided, 500-lb. munition.
Overall, the software requires 9.3 million lines of code, 8.5 million of which is already being tested on the aircraft or in the laboratory, says Martin.
In addition, the Pentagon has broken the Block 3 increment into two pieces—Block 3I (initial capability) and Block 3F (full capability), says Venlet. “We don't want to throw too much in it so that it can't be done,” he says, noting that Block 3 may also include some regression work from Block 2B. The 3I package, to be installed on aircraft in LRIPs 6-8, will include the 2B release rehosted on new computer hardware, selected to handle obsolescence issues. The 3F tranche will feature new capabilities that are key to the F-35's core mission‚ such as multi-ship suppression and destruction of enemy air defenses as well as new air-to-air and air-to-ground modes. This package also will include the full complement of weapons carried internally and externally on the aircraft, says Venlet. It is slated for inclusion on the LRIP 9 aircraft, and defines the capability that will be available at the end of the development phase of the program in 2017, he notes.
Once the process is stable, Venlet says the program office hopes to issue a software refresh every two years.
Talks with allies on what capabilities and weapons will be included in Block IV are in the early phases, he says. This block is likely to be approved in 18 months, with initial capabilities slated for delivery in 2020. The U.K. is pushing for inclusion of the Advanced Short-Range Air-to-Air Missile, and Norway is promoting inclusion of the Joint Strike Missile into this package—though country-unique requirements must be paid for by the participant wanting that capability.
Lockheed Martin, meanwhile, is making measured headway on two snags that came to light in testing: jitter, latency and night acuity in the Vision Systems International (VSI)helmet system, and lackluster performance of the original F-35C tailhook design.
VSI is implementing fixes to the helmet, which is designed to replace a head-up display and project symbology, day or night, onto the pilot's visor. “Small software tweaks” are needed to fix the latency issue, Lockheed Martin officials say. Slight delays cropped up during the most stressing mission scenarios, they note. A solution for this and the jitter involves installing new micro-internal measurement units. This fix is being tested this summer, says Martin. Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Lincoln Laboratory also is crafting a new camera designed to resolve the night acuity problem; it is slated for testing later in the year.
In the meantime, BAE Systems is working on an alternative helmet design which does not include the night camera, but will employ night-vision goggle capabilities.
Critical design reviews for both helmet systems are set for the fourth quarter of this year. “We have some choices ahead that will be very useful,” says Venlet.
Work also continues on a redesigned tailhook and dampener for the F-35C. The original design failed to grasp the arresting wire in slow, ground-based trials last year. Carvalho says Lockheed Martin began testing the tailhook—which has a sharper point designed to scoop under the wire—in May and it “caught the wire every time” in ground tests. Work is also underway on the dampener, and Venlet hopes to see it tested by early fall. The first arrested landing on a runway is expected in 2013. The aircraft is due to start carrier trials at sea in 2014.
Now Lockheed Martin is hoping to make up for lost time stemming from a strike at its Fort Worth facility. Venlet says that during the disruption, the company was able to achieve about 40% of the planned work using salaried employees and temporary staff. At the start of the strike, the company had only enough workers for a single shift, but after several weeks a second shift was added, improving throughput. Don Kinard, a senior fellow at Lockheed in Fort Worth, says the company has prioritized final assembly of the LRIP 4 aircraft, but officials still plan to try to deliver all 30 aircraft expected in 2012 by year-end, “though there is some pressure on that,” says Carvalho. Options include adding a third shift of workers. Although the company may not be able to recover the schedule, “I wouldn't necessarily say that we can't recover cost,” he says.
The LRIP 4 contract, which is 57% complete, is thus far running over the target by about 7%, says Venlet. Though the company will exceed the estimate at completion, says Carvalho, “we believe that differential is smaller than reported.”
Lockheed Martin F-35 Flight Test Progress Report
(Source: Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Company; issued July 10, 2012)
FORT WORTH, Texas --- Lockheed Martin's (LMT) F-35 program accrued the highest number of test points in a single month during June, an accomplishment indicative of the program's ongoing maturation. Additionally, for the 18th consecutive month the F-35 test program remained ahead of plan.
As of June 30, the F-35 Lightning II 5th Generation multirole fighter had conducted 595 test flights in 2012 versus a plan of 445 and accrued 4,830 test points against a plan of 3,901.
In June, the F-35 program accomplished several flight test and production milestones:
• During June, the F-35 test program accrued the most test points in a single month, 1,118, in program history.
• On June 5, BF-5 became the first F-35B short takeoff and vertical landing (STOVL) jet to fly with Block 2A software.
• On June 13, the first F-35C carrier variant (CV) night flight was completed at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Md.
• On June 13, F-35A conventional takeoff and landing (CTOL) weapons pit drop testing was conducted for the first time at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif.
• On June 14 at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Md., BF-2 completed the first test flight for the F-35B STOVL variant with an asymmetric weapons load.
• On June 25, AF-1, an F-35A CTOL test jet, accomplished the first F-35 weapon pit drop from an external station, a GBU-12 from station 2.
• On June 27, the program achieved the highest number of F-35 flights in a single day, 12.
Cumulative flight test activity totals for 2012 through June 30 are provided below:
• F-35A CTOL jets have flown 260 times.
• F-35B STOVL jets have completed 202 flights, 134 of which began with a short takeoff. Additionally, F-35B STOVL aircraft have conducted 55 vertical landings.
• F-35C CV jets have flown 133 times.
Cumulative flight test activity totals for the duration of the program through May 31 are provided below:
• F-35A CTOL jets have flown 907 times.
• F-35B STOVL jets have completed 791 flights, 553 of which began with a short takeoff. Additionally, F-35B STOVL aircraft have conducted 334 vertical landings.
• F-35C CV jets have flown 325 times.
Since December 2006, F-35s have flown 2,355 times and accrued more than 3,700 cumulative flight hours. This total includes 91 flights from the original test aircraft, AA-1; 2,023 SDD test flights; and 241 production-model flights. For video highlights of the F-35 program, click here.
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.
Headquartered in Bethesda, Md., Lockheed Martin is a global security and aerospace company that employs about 123,000 people worldwide and is principally engaged in the research, design, development, manufacture, integration and sustainment of advanced technology systems, products and services. The Corporation's net sales for 2011 were $46.5 billion.
DoD Acquisition Chief: Pentagon, Lockheed Still Working On F-35 Deal
Jul. 16, 2012 - 08:01PM
By MARCUS WEISGERBER
The U.S. Defense Department and Lockheed Martin are still trying to iron out a deal for 32 F-35 Joint Strike Fighter aircraft, the Pentagon’s top weapons buyer said.
Frank Kendall, the undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics, said he is “hopeful that we’re in the endgame” of the negotiations, which have been under way since last year.
While he refused to discuss the details of the talks, he said the two sides are getting closer to an agreement.
One reason for such a lengthy negotiation is the use of new Pentagon pricing data.
DoD officials, have developed a so-called “should-cost” estimate made up of data from the previous four batches of F-35s purchases. These figures have been used to develop a “bottoms-up cost estimate based on that previous history,” Kendall said.
“We started negotiations on the government side with a very well-documented set of costs, called the should-cost, and then we were able to compare that to the bid that we received, item-by-item, line-by-line,” Kendall said during a July 16 meeting with a small group of reporters in his Pentagon office. “Going through and trying to resolve the differences has been the process that has taken so long.”
After these negotiations conclude, “we’ll be in a very good place to go ahead and negotiate for future lots,” he said.
Vice Adm. David Venlet, the F-35 program manager, said in March that the Pentagon hoped to strike a better deal with Lockheed over prior order despite plans to purchase 179 fewer jets over the next five years.
Some Sequestration Details
The Pentagon believes that sequestration — mandatory across-the-board spending cuts set to go into effect in January — will not impact every acquisition contract.
Kendall said the sequestration would apply to funding that is not yet obligated.
“The reduction assigned to acquisition programs is based on the unobligated funding at the time sequestration goes into effect,” he said. “In general, this reduction will be applied to funds not yet on contract.
“A small subset of acquisition programs — some R&D [research-and-development] contracts, incrementally funded ships, multiyear contracts — are funded year by year, so they are on contract, but not all the funding is obligated up front,” he added.
Kendall, like many other DoD leaders, called on Congress develop a plan to advert the defense spending cuts, which are expected to total nearly $500 billion over the next decade.
“The investments accounts are going to be hit hard,” Kendall said, referring to the research-and-development and procurement budgets.
“What we’re trying to send is a very, very strong message that sequestration is just an unacceptable outcome, it’s completely unnecessary,” he said. “There’s no reason why it should occur and Congress simply has to act to avoid it and we’re hopeful that they will.”
Pentagon officials say will not preparing for sequestration and will not until the White House Office of Management and Budgets provides them planning instructions.
First Air National Guard pilot starts transition to F-35
By: Dave Majumdar Washington DC
1 hours ago
The US Air Force's 33rd Fighter Wing (FW) has started training the first Air National Guard (ANG) pilot on the Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter at Eglin AFB, Florida.
Major Jay Spohn, chief of standards and evaluation at the 33rd FW's operations group and member of the Florida Air National Guard (FANG), flew his first transition flight in the F-35A-model jet on 16 July. After five more flights, he will be qualified as an F-35 instructor pilot.
"I felt much more comfortable on my very first flight in the F-35 than I did two and half years ago on my first flight in the [Boeing] F-15C or ten years ago on my first flight in the [Fairchild Republic] A-10," Spohn says. "I attribute that directly to the quality of training I received here at Eglin."
©USAF Lt Col Eric Smith
Spohn adds that the F-35 is a joy to fly. "The aircraft flies just like the simulator-which is a good thing," he says.
Having flown only one sortie and accounting for the operating restrictions on Eglin's F-35s, Spohn says he is not able to offer any meaningful opinions about the aircraft's tactical capabilities just yet. But the F-35's future capabilities, which will eventually be released to the 33rd FW, look very promising for all of the mission types he has flown before, he adds.
But even with the limited flight envelop released to Eglin for training, Spohn says that some of the F-35's characteristics are already apparent. The jet's subsonic acceleration is excellent.
"I think it compares very favorably to the F-15C," Spohn says. "I would say the acceleration in a straight line is absolutely comparable to the F-15C equipped with [Pratt & Whitney F100-PW]-220 engines that aircraft is a pretty spy performer, if you will, and it compared very well with that."
Though pilots at the Florida base are currently only flying the most basic of training sorties, some of the instructors are starting to undertake more tactically oriented flights. "The guys who have been checked out have done some very basic tactical intercepts," Spohn says. "But obviously it's difficult to get a real feel for how the aircraft handles when you are operating within a restricted envelop like that."
Colonel Andrew Toth, commander of the 33rd FW, adds that those sorties are flown in one-versus-one setups with a chase aircraft. "They basically drive straight through at the merge and go to opposite points," Toth says. "No BFM [basic fighter maneuvers]."
Meanwhile ground crews are also finding the F-35 easy to work with compared to older machines, says Master Sergeant Brian Rowlands. "It is a lot simpler than the F-15C, which is what I came off of."
Organizationally, it is significant that the ANG is getting involved with flying the F-35 this early on. Spohn is one of two ANG pilots at Eglin; the other is the wing's deputy operations group commander. There are also two US Air Force Reserves pilots assigned to the base. The pilots are not part of an ANG associate setup found at other bases, the Guard officers are fully embedded into the unit, Spohn says.
"The fact that we're in the Guard is transparent to most people," he says.
That is part of the goal of the USAF's total force integration effort-a seamless USAF with little distinction between the active, Guard and Reserve components.
Have always thought that we should have some sort of fast jet reserve squadron .. keep those ex RAAF qantas etc. pilots in the groove .. a dozen or so referbed classic Hornets after the F-35's turn up ... I know Dreaming .. :-p
The way the defence budget is going they would be flying gliders or ultra-lights.
Originally Posted by geof