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 September 3, 2015

News Carter To China: US ‘Will Fly, Sail, Operate Wherever Law Allows’ Defense Secretary Ash Carter, in a speech billed as all about a new personnel approach for the Pentagon, laid out a clear line in the sand of the temporary islands the Chinese have been building. http://breakingdefense.com/2015/09/carter-to-china-us-will-fly-sail-operate-wherever-law-allows/ LRS-B details emerge: Major t...
 
 

News Briefs September 3, 2015

Soldier injured after parachute failed to deploy A soldier was injured during a U.S. Army Special Operations parachute training exercise in western Montana. Army officials at Fort Bragg, N.C., say 16 soldiers were conducting a free-fall parachute jump from two Blackhawk helicopters near Hamilton Aug. 31 when one soldier had an equipment malfunction and was...
 
 

Boeing, Jet2.com finalize order for 27 Next Generation 737-800s

Boeing and UK Leisure Airline Jet2.com have finalized an order for 27 Next Generation 737-800s, valued at approximately $2.6 billion at current list prices. Jet2.com currently operates an all-Boeing fleet of nearly 60 aircraft; however, this is the organization’s first direct Boeing order.† The aircraft will be used to take the company’s package holiday and...
 

 
boeing-emirates

Boeing, Emirates celebrate airline’s 150th 777 delivery

Boeing and Emirates Airline Sept. 3 celebrated the simultaneous delivery of three 777s — two 777-300ERs and one 777 Freighter — marking the entry of the 150th 777 into Emirates’ fleet. The delivery marks the first tim...
 
 

U.S. Air Force selects Chromalloy for F108 gas turbine engine module repairs

Chromalloy announced Sept. 2 that it has been selected by the U.S. Air Force to provide repairs on low pressure turbine modules for the F108 aircraft engine fleet, in a contract valued at up to $74 million. The one-year agreement was contracted by the Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma and includes four one-year options...
 
 
raytheon-colorado

Raytheon expanding in Colorado Springs

Raytheon will speed up growth of its Colorado Springs presence after signing a $700 million multi-year indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contract to support operations at NORAD’s Cheyenne Mountain Complex. Under the...
 




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=""> <s> <strike> <strong>