Defense

October 16, 2012

F-35: Newest fighter much more than just ‘stealthy plane’

Tags:
Marine Corps Cpl. Daniel Wetzel
Eglin AFB, Fla.

F-35A Lightning II joint strike fighter crew chief SSgt. Darron Cothran (left) and a Lockheed Maintainer from the 58th Aircraft Maintenance Unit at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., pull the wheel chalks on the jet before taking off for a local training mission over the Emerald Coast Sept. 18, 2012.

The engines roared overhead as an F-35A fell into formation. Although this is a basic maneuver for the test pilots, the possibilities for combat environments created by these elite aircraft working together are anything but mundane.

The F-35, which features three variants to be used by the Air Force, Marine Corps and Navy, is a single-seat aircraft capable of stealthy operations, equipped with an enhanced computer technology system. The Marine Corps B variant is also capable of performing short takeoffs and vertical-landings while maintaining the conventional operations of other airplanes.

The F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter program started in 1997. The program includes plans to replace the Air Force’s aging F-16 Fighting Falcon and A-10 Thunderbolt II, the Marine Corps’ short takeoff, vertical landing AV-8B Harrier and dogfighting and air-to-ground attacking F/A-18 Hornet and the Navy’s stock of legacy Hornets.

“The F-35 is a fifth-generation fighter; but it’s more than just a stealthy airplane,” said Marine Corps Col. Art Tomassetti, a pilot who has been with the JSF program since 1998. “It goes beyond stealth and low observable capability. It brings together everything that today’s computer and digital age can bring to how the airplane flies and how it’s maintained.”

The F-35 is an ideal combination of stealth, sensor fusion and a robust digital flight control system making it, not only easy for a pilot to fly, but easy to identify and engage targets in the battlespace. Along with ease of flight, the F-35 also allows pilots greater situational awareness.

“When you look at the F-35, you can’t look at it as a single airplane against another single airplane,” Tomassetti said. “You have to look at a group of F-35s working together, then you really get to take advantage of what the F-35 brings to the battle space. The ability of the airplanes to use a variety of sensors to gather information and share the information they gather between planes is truly incredible.”

With the F-35, pilots can access information about possible targets and threats from supporting F-35 aircraft via data links, which allows them to see more and identify more of what is happening in the battle space, Tomassetti said.

Currently, the military is only training seasoned pilots on the new airplane at Eglin Air Force Base.

When new pilots are allowed into the program, they will find themselves in a unique training environment along with enlisted aircraft maintainers and mechanics from all three branches of service and also coalition partners from several foreign nations.

These service members will learn how to operate and maintain the F-35 through a digital training environment. This kinetic learning system allows the learning to occur through touching and doing, rather than seeing and hearing.

“The fact that we’re starting with the same airframe, same formations, same weapons capabilities, I think that already puts us at a better starting point when we show up to a combat theater together,” said Lt. Col. Lee Kloos, squadron commander for the 58th Fighter Squadron, of the integration of forces with the F-35.

Kloos, who has more 2,100 hours flying the F-16, said having the Air Force, Marine Corps and Navy field the same airframe allows a common frame of reference for pilots regardless of service.

The aircraft is also a joy to fly, Kloos said. Despite the advanced technology and complexity of the aircraft, it’s a very easy aircraft to fly, and basic pilot actions remain the same as in any fighter aircraft.

“Pull back on the stick and the trees get smaller, push forward and the trees get bigger,” Kloos said. It is a stable and well-balanced plane designed for today’s generation who grew up playing video games, he said.

Comparatively speaking, the F-35 has a clean cockpit. Instead of a multitude of switches inherent of many aircraft, the F-35 has two touch screens with interfaces similar to a tablet computer.

For the maintainers, things are a little tougher.

“I was working on the F-15 C and D models,” said Staff Sgt. Matthew Reed, F-35 A maintainer. “The F-35 is a completely different aircraft. The technology is challenging at times.”

Since the F-35 is still in operational testing, the maintainers and pilots work through all the bugs together. On a continuous basis, personnel are testing the aircraft in new maneuvers and capabilities. Once these are monitored and assessed, the pilots are cleared to perform them in their daily flight operations.

“Today our training consists of the basics of takeoff, landing, navigation and basic formation as we wait for the flight clearance to expand and allow us to train specific mission sets,” Tomassetti said.

Air Force maintainers, the first service members to work on the F-35, use the maintenance side of the computer to do preventative diagnostics and pinpoint possible problems.

With the pilots and maintainers working together, the Air Force and Marine Corps have flown hundreds of training sorties since their first flight in 2011. They continue to fly daily to bring the F-35 A, the Air Force’s conventional landing and take-off variant, F-35 B, the Marine Corps’ STOVL variant, and F-35 C, the Navy’s carrier-based variant, closer to combat operations.




All of this week's top headlines to your email every Friday.


 
 

 

Headlines July 30, 2014

News: Software to power F-35 running as much as 14 months late¬†- Software needed to operate Lockheed Martin’s F-35 jet, the Pentagon’s costliest weapons system, may be as much as 14 months late for required flight testing, according to a Pentagon review.   Business: Lockheed will turn on JLTV production line In August; 6-D truck...
 
 

News Briefs July 30, 2014

U.S. military deaths in Afghanistan at 2,197 As of July 29, 2014, at least 2,197 members of the U.S. military had died in Afghanistan as a result of the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan in late 2001, according to an Associated Press count. At least 1,819 military service members have died in Afghanistan as a result...
 
 
Lockheed Martin photograph by Tom Reynolds

F-35B successfully completes wet runway, crosswind testing

Lockheed Martin photograph by Tom Reynolds F-35B aircraft BF-4, piloted by Lockheed Martin Test Pilot Dan Levin, starts down the runway as part of wet runway and crosswind testing at Edwards AFB, Calif. In an important program ...
 

 
boeing-chinook

Boeing delivers first U.S. Army multiyear II configured Chinook

Boeing July 29 delivered the first multiyear II configured CH-47F Chinook helicopter to the U.S. Army one month ahead of schedule. The delivery was celebrated in a ceremony at the production facility in Ridley Township, Penn. ‚...
 
 
Army photograph by SSgt. Angela Stafford

Engineers developing safer, more accurate tracer round

Army photograph Tracer rounds enable the shooter to follow the projectile trajectory to make aiming corrections. However, the light emitted by these rounds also gives away the position of the shooter. Engineers at Picatinny Ars...
 
 
NASA photograph by Carla Thomas

Katherine Lott awarded NASA Armstrong employee scholarship

NASA photograph by Carla Thomas Katherine Lott, the recipient of the 2014 NASA Armstrong Employee Exchange Council Joseph R. Vensel Memorial Scholarship, is congratulated by NASA Armstrong center director David McBride. Flankin...
 




0 Comments


Be the first to comment!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>