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USMC F-35B at Miramar air show
USMC F-35B at Miramar air show
F-35B graphic
A US F-35C

F-35B update October

Published: 29 Oct 2014

Britain is to buy 14 of the world’s most advanced jump-jets over the next five years with the first order to be placed within weeks, the defence secretary announced yesterday, 28 October. 

Ending months of speculation, Michael Fallon said that the first order for four aircraft meant that the first F-35B squadron would take up station at RAF Marham, Norfolk, in 2018. “Today’s announcement is a major step forward,” Mr Fallon said. 

Using the British name for the Joint Strike Fighter, he added: “The Lightning II will equip the Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force with a highly advanced multirole stealth combat aircraft, operating from both our new Queen Elizabeth-class carriers and land bases.”

Program Summary 

The F-35 began as the Joint Strike Fighter program - an effort to create a 5th Generation fighter with three variants and nine partner countries. The partners contributed to development of the requirements, design and test program, drawing on the aerospace expertise of a global network of allies.

The aircraft is now in production, with companies around the world building components and support equipment, international jets rolling off the production line, and new Foreign Military Sales customers selecting the F-35 for their armed forces. 

The F-35's nine partner countries are Australia, Canada, Denmark, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Turkey, the United Kingdom and the United States. Suppliers in all the partner countries are producing F-35 components for all aircraft, not just those for their country. Israel, Japan and the Republic of Korea selected the F-35A through the Foreign Military Sales process.

Short US video (Bloomberg TV) on what makes the F-35 a flying super-computer.

United Kingdom

Final numbers are still to be announced but the Royal Air Force and Royal Navy originally planned to operate 138 F-35B short takeoff/vertical landing aircraft, and the first two were delivered to the U.K. in 2012. These aircraft support training at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., where British pilots and maintainers are embedded with the U.S. Marine Corps and their fleet of F-35Bs. The third U.K. F-35 was delivered to Eglin in June of 2013. 

The Lightning II will be the backbone of Britain’s future carrier operations. As the first supersonic short take-off and vertical landing (STOVL) fighter jet, the F-35B will provide vital 5th Generation carrier-strike capabilities to the Royal Navy’s two new carriers – the HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales. These new Queen Elizabeth Class Carriers are designed specifically for integration with the F-35B aircraft, including a ski jump ramp for short take offs in place of the traditional catapult launch. The F-35B also has the ability to operate from land bases and remote locations, providing the British government with versatility in its possible response to a threat. 

Many parts for the F-35 were designed and built in the UK. For example, structural testing of the F-35 horizontal tails for all three variants is now complete, proving the tails are structurally sound for up 24,000 hours of flying, the equivalent to three lifetimes of the aircraft. Testing began in 2008 and was completed, ahead of schedule in June 2014.  Two types of testing were completed, static and fatigue testing.  Static testing involved applying the maximum loads the aircraft is expected to see in its life, in some instances the loads were equivalent to parking two double decker busses on the tail.  Fatigue testing subjected the tails to thousands of simulated flight cycles, effectively flying the tails in a jig for 24,000 hours.

Karl Barker managed the completion of the testing and said “The tails were actually designed at BAE Brough, near Hull starting back in 2003, so completing the testing right where it all started is a proud moment for the team.  They’ve seen it right the way through from design to test.
“Add this to the fact that we manufacture the horizontal and vertical tails for the programme at BAE Samlesbury, Lancs and there’s a great British story behind F-35.  Every time we see an aircraft fly, we know we helped make that happen." 

F-35 Partner News 

A United States F-35B made its first appearance at an Air Show at Miramar, San Diego 4 October 2014. 

The US Marine Corps created the first operational squadron of F-35B planes in 2012. Yuma-based Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 121 has since flown more than 1,000 sorties totalling about 1,700 flight hours.

The Marine Corps said its plan to become the first service to declare initial operational capability for the jet, in July 2015, is on track despite the temporary grounding of the entire F-35 fleet this summer because of an engine malfunction in the Air Force F-35A version. 

Marine Operational and Evaluation Squadron 22 (VMX-22) received its first F-35B Lightning II for operational testing at Edwards AFB, California, on 9 October 2014. This is the first of four F-35Bs that will be assigned to VMX-22. Operational testing will determine the effectiveness and suitability of the F-35B in its intended operational environment. Flight will be conducted at Edwards, China Lake and Twentynine Palms, California; Nellis AFB, Nevada; MCAS Yuma, Arizona; and aboard the USS Wasp. F-35B operational test is scheduled for completion by 2018, but follow-on testing will continue throughout the life of the F-35 program. 

Attack Training Squadron 501 at Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, South Carolina, introduced the first F-35B Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter pilot training course, also known as the F-35B Safe for Solo course on 6 October 2014. The three-month course is the formal instruction period that trains and certifies pilots to fly the F-35B. Throughout the course, Marine aviators will learn everything from basic familiarization for flying the F-35B on various missions and under a variety of weather conditions.

“During a Hornet or Harrier course, the majority of the training is in the mechanics of the jet such as how to work the radar,” said Maj. Carlton A. Wilson, the executive officer for 501. “The F-35B is so much easier to fly. We are able to spend less time teaching about the mechanics of flying the jet, and start teaching advanced concepts at a much earlier stage in training.” 

The US Navy has announced a total of 100 F-35C aircraft in seven Navy Pacific Fleet squadrons (10 aircraft per squadron) and the Fleet Replacement Squadron (FRS) (30 aircraft) will be based at NAS Lemoore, California, beginning in 2016. The F-35 joint strike fighter is on track to conduct trials aboard a US Navy aircraft carrier in November 2014. 

Australia’s first two F-35A jets have taken to the skies, the first on 29 September and the second on 1 October 2014. Some 100 5th Generation F-35As will transform the RAAF into a next generation fighter force. By operating the same aircraft as allies in the Asia-Pacific and around the world, the RAAF will take advantage of the F-35’s powerful sensors to share data to an unprecedented level of interoperability. The first two Australian pilots to undertake F-35A training are Squadron Leaders Andrew Jackson and David Bell. 

When Norway’s fleet of F-35As comes online in 2015, there will be little to distinguish them from jets belonging to the United States and other programme partners.

That will change after 2017, when the Scandinavian nation will be the first to receive a modular kit to equip its jets with drag chutes that help the aircraft land on icy Arctic runways. The chute, which the Netherlands and Canada also are eyeing as a modification to their F-35s, is the first aftermarket modification to the jets through seven low-rate initial production (LRIP) lots.

Norway will take delivery of its first F-35A in 2015, but testing on the chute will not begin for another two years. Until then, the Norwegians will train in the United States with “clean,” unmodified aircraft. 

Denmark Danish industry is making contributions to production of the F-35 in the areas of advanced composites, aero structures, machine parts, logistics and wiring harnesses. This work is for the global F-35 fleet, not just the aircraft that Denmark would purchase. For example, Terma is manufacturing the 25 MM gun pod that will be used on the F-35B and F-35C by the U.S. and other allies.

The Danish Air Force has also contributed an F-16, pilot and maintenance personnel to support the F-35 flight test program at Edwards Air Force Base, California. 

Netherlands The first Dutch F-35 has completed flight checks and is awaiting government acceptance, and the second rolled out of Lockheed Martin's production facility in Fort Worth, Texas, on March 2, 2013.

Turkey Turkey plans to purchase 100 of the F-35A Conventional Take-off and Landing variant.

Oct 22 (Reuters) - Lockheed Martin and Turkish missile manufacturer Roketsan signed an agreement Wednesday to produce and sell Turkey's SOM-J air-launched cruise missile for the F-35 Lightning II combat jet, the companies said.

The agreement, signed in the Turkish capital Ankara, envisages the development, production, marketing, selling and supporting the SOM-J for internal carriage on the F-35 or external carriage on other aircraft. 

South Korea The Republic of Korea government finalized its formal selection of the F-35A Lightning II for its F-X fighter acquisition program on 24 September 2014. A Letter of Offer and Acceptance, or LOA, between the US and South Korean governments will be signed for forty F-35A conventional take-off and landing aircraft with initial deliveries to the Republic of Korea Air Force beginning in 2018.


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