Category Archives: Fighters

Oldest F-22 Raptor

In Greek mythology, a phoenix is an extraordinary bird that is born again, rising from the ashes of its predecessor.

Raptor #4006 takes off for the first time in nearly six years with Steve Rainey, Lockheed Martin F-22 chief test pilot, behind the controls, July 17. The test jet recently completed an extensive refurbishment to get it back in the air. It will now be used as a flight sciences aircraft for the 411th Flight Test Squadron and F-22 Combined Test Force (Courtesy photo by Chad Bellay/Lockheed Martin)
Raptor #4006 takes off for the first time in nearly six years with Steve Rainey, Lockheed Martin F-22 chief test pilot, behind the controls, July 17. The test jet recently completed an extensive refurbishment to get it back in the air. It will now be used as a flight sciences aircraft for the 411th Flight Test Squadron and F-22 Combined Test Force (Courtesy photo by Chad Bellay/Lockheed Martin)

A video aptly titled, «The Phoenix Rises», played at a ceremony held August 27 in Hangar 1635 to celebrate the rebirth of one of the original F-22 Raptors ever built.

Base leadership joined the 411th Flight Test Squadron and F-22 Combined Test Force, along with Lockheed Martin and Boeing representatives, to welcome back to life Raptor #91-4006, which has been on the ground for almost six years.

The fifth-generation fighter was one of the first F-22 Raptors to have avionics installed for testing and has been at the 411th FLTS since it arrived in May 2001.

However, in November 2012, Raptor 4006 needed costly upgrades and the decision was made to put it into storage, possibly never to fly again due to the budget sequestration at the time, according to Lieutenant Colonel Lee Bryant, 411th FLTS commander and F-22 CTF director.

«This was a gainfully employed airplane when she was working», said Steve Rainey, Lockheed Martin F-22 chief test pilot and member of the F-22 CTF. Rainey also emceed the ceremony.

After eventually getting approval and funding from the Air Force to overhaul the Raptor, a «purple» team of Air Force, Lockheed and Boeing personnel worked for 27 months here at Edwards to restore the jet back to flying status. This included 25,000 man-hours and almost 11,000 individual fixes/parts. The completed refurbishment extends the Raptor’s life from 2,000 flight hours to 4,000 FH and gives it newer avionics systems for testing.

Rainey was the first military F-22 Raptor pilot while in the Air Force and has worked on the Raptor program almost since its beginning. It was only fitting that the rise of the new phoenix was completed July 17 when Rainey took the newly refurbished Raptor to the sky for its «second first flight».

Raptor 4006 is currently the oldest flying F-22. It will now be used as a flight sciences aircraft, which will be an integral part of F-22 fleet modernization.

«It increases our test fleet from three to four giving us another flight sciences jet», said Bryant. «This will help us tackle the expanding F-22 modernization program».

Brigadier General E. John Teichert, 412th Test Wing commander, said he has flown 4006 numerous times when was assigned to the 411th FLTS as a project pilot and later as a squadron commander.

«Our warfighter needs her back flying again», said Teichert.

Today, the Air Force has 183 Raptors in its inventory and boasts that the F-22 cannot be matched by any known or projected fighter aircraft.

The F-22 Raptor’s combination of stealth, supercruise capability, maneuverability and integrated avionics, coupled with improved supportability, represents an exponential leap in warfighting capabilities from previous generations of fighters. The Raptor performs both air-to-air and air-to-ground missions allowing full realization of operational concepts vital to the 21st century Air Force.

https://www.edwards.af.mil/News/Video/videoid/622051/
The Phoenix Rises

Operational Test-1

F-35C Lightning II aircraft from Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 125 are conducting their Operational Test-1 (OT-1) with Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 7 and Carrier Strike Group 12 aboard the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72).

An F-35C Lightning II assigned to the Rough Raiders of Strike Fighter Squadron 125 lands on the flight deck of the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72). Abraham Lincoln is currently underway conducting carrier qualifications (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Maxwell Anderson/Released)
An F-35C Lightning II assigned to the Rough Raiders of Strike Fighter Squadron 125 lands on the flight deck of the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72). Abraham Lincoln is currently underway conducting carrier qualifications (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Maxwell Anderson/Released)

OT-1 evaluates the full spectrum of the F-35C’s suitability for operation within a carrier air wing and mission effectiveness to the maximum extent possible.

«The F-35C Lightning II brings stealth, enhanced electronic capabilities and a different sustainment model», said Rear Admiral Dale Horan, director, Joint Strike Fighter Fleet Integration Office. «Operating this new generation of aircraft out on the aircraft carrier brings a different set of tools, techniques and procedures, and we’re learning how to integrate them into the battle group».

The F-35C Lightning II has the ability to pass on the information it collects not only to other F-35s in the air, but to legacy aircraft, carrier air wings, strike groups and troops on ground, enhancing the warfighting potential of the fleet.

Evaluators have been assessing the suitability of the F-35C Lightning II aboard carriers by defining how well it performs with other aircraft and incorporates into an air plan, monitoring maintenance and identifying its logistics footprint.

«We hope to see how it integrates onboard the ship», said Horan. «Can we maintain it? Can we get the parts? Can we get it airborne? Can we repair it if it has a problem? Those are the kinds of things we are looking for».

In addition to assessing the suitability of the F-35C Lightning II on a Nimitz-class class aircraft carrier, OT-1 evaluators observed the effectiveness of the F-35C Lightning II in real-world scenarios.

«The effectiveness piece is what we’re doing when we’re airborne and executing missions», said Captain Matt Norris, from the Joint Strike Fighter Operational Test Team. «We’ve been integrating with the strike group and accomplishing many missions like defensive counter air and anti-submarine warfare, for instance».

Previously, F-35C Lightning II and F/A-18 Super Hornet pilots have only conducted carrier qualifications together, so OT-1 marks the first time the F-35Cs have joined a carrier air wing to perform in a cyclic operations environment.

During cyclic operations, aircraft simulate missions, practice aerial maneuvers and take off and land continuously with brief pauses to allow for maintenance, fuel and ordnance changes.

Aboard Abraham Lincoln, the F-35C Lightning II has been flying cyclic operations with F/A-18 Super Hornets, E-2D Hawkeyes and EA-18G Growlers, conducting missions it would execute in combat if required. The addition of the F-35C Lightning II brings advanced capabilities that transform the way an air wing conducts operations.

Operational Test-1 helps give the U.S. Navy an assessment of how the aircraft would perform on deployment. As adversaries advance and legacy aircraft age, the F-35C Lightning II is critical to maintaining air dominance.

«This is the first time we really see how the aircraft works on the aircraft carrier; how we do maintenance and sustain it while we’re at sea; how it integrates with the ship; how it interoperates with communications, datalinks, the other aircraft; and how we conduct missions and tie in to other aircraft when we conduct missions», said Horan.

And while pilots adapted to the new aircraft, the crew of Abraham Lincoln also adjusted to the F-35s. From Aviation Boatswain’s Mates to Air-traffic Controllers, each Sailor learned to manage the aircraft with its unique attributes and capabilities.

«The level of planning that is required to execute an evolution like we did for OT-1 is huge, so everyone aboard Abraham Lincoln should be proud of the level of effort that they put in and how well they executed», said Norris. «We can’t fly this aircraft without everything the ship does for us, and the Lincoln has been an impressive ship».

With the successful completion of OT-1, the fifth-generation aircraft is one step closer to becoming deployable in the U.S. Navy fleet.

«The aircraft looks like a naval aircraft on the flight deck. From that perspective, the big picture looks pretty good», said Horan.

Data and lessons learned during OT-1 will lay the groundwork for future F-35C Lightning II deployments aboard U.S. Navy aircraft carriers following the Navy’s F-35C Lightning II Initial Operating Capability (IOC) declaration.

 

F-35С Lightning II specifications

Length 51.5 feet/15.7 m
Height 14.7 feet/4.48 m
Wing span 43 feet/13.1 m
Wing area 668 feet2/62.1 m2
Horizontal tail span 26.3 feet/8.02 m
Weight empty 34,800 lbs/15,785 kg
Internal fuel capacity 19,750 lbs/8,960 kg
Weapons payload 18,000 lbs/8,160 kg
Maximum weight 70,000 lbs class/31,751 kg
Standard internal weapons load Two AIM-120C air-to-air missiles
Two 2,000-pound (907 kg) GBU-31 JDAM (Joint Direct Attack Munition) guided bombs
Propulsion (uninstalled thrust ratings) F135-PW-400
Maximum Power (with afterburner) 43,000 lbs/191,3 kN/19,507 kgf
Military Power (without afterburner) 28,000 lbs/128,1 kN/13,063 kgf
Propulsion Length 220 inch/5.59 m
Propulsion Inlet Diameter 46 inch/1.17 m
Propulsion Maximum Diameter 51 inch/1.30 m
Propulsion Bypass Ratio 0.57
Propulsion Overall Pressure Ratio 28
Speed (full internal weapons load) Mach 1.6/1,043 knots/1,200 mph/1,931 km/h
Combat radius (internal fuel) >600 NM/683.5 miles/1,100 km
Range (internal fuel) >1,200 NM/1,367 miles/2,200 km
Max g-rating 7.5

 

Planned Quantities

U.S. Navy 260
U.S. Marine Corps 80
In total 340

 

Full-rate production

Northrop Grumman Corporation’s center fuselage of the F-35 Lightning II recently entered full-rate production. This milestone marks the beginning of a 1.5-day Production Interval (PI) meaning a center fuselage will be produced every day and a half.

Northrop Grumman quality team performs final inspection of an F-35 center fuselage produced by the company at its Palmdale Aircraft Integration Center of Excellence
Northrop Grumman quality team performs final inspection of an F-35 center fuselage produced by the company at its Palmdale Aircraft Integration Center of Excellence

«Our customers and warfighters deserve the best», said Frank Carus, vice president and F-35 program manager, Northrop Grumman. «Every efficiency, every minute, and every dollar we save reduces costs and speeds up the F-35’s availability to the warfighter. Achieving this pace is a testament to our employees, suppliers and teammates’ commitment to quality and affordability».

Carus also noted that the 400th F-35 center fuselage was completed and delivered to Lockheed Martin last month and production of the 500th F-35 center fuselage began last week.

«This pace of military aircraft production has not been seen in decades», said Kevin Mickey, sector vice president and general manager, military aircraft systems, Northrop Grumman. «Our revolutionary approach on the integrated assembly line pairs advanced technology with data-driven analytics to manufacture advanced aircraft while delivering top quality products on time, and often ahead of schedule».

A core structure of the F-35 Lightning II aircraft, the center fuselage is produced on Northrop Grumman’s Integrated Assembly Line (IAL) at its Palmdale Aircraft Integration Center of Excellence. The IAL is a state-of-the-art facility supported by technologies exclusive to or pioneered by Northrop Grumman bringing together robotics, autonomous systems, virtual 3D and predictive automation to the forefront of center fuselage production.

«As we prepare for full rate production of the F-35, many of our teammates and suppliers are now transitioning to full rate, aligning their production lead times with the F-35 final assembly that supports increased warfighter demand», said Eric Branyan, vice president of F-35 supply chain at Lockheed Martin. «Northrop Grumman plays a critical role in the F-35 enterprise and we look forward to continuing to reduce costs, improve efficiencies and deliver transformational F-35 capabilities for the men and women in uniform».

Northrop Grumman plays a key role in the development and production of the F-35 weapons system. In addition to producing the jet’s center fuselage and wing skins for the aircraft, the company develops, produces and maintains several sensor systems, avionics, mission systems and mission-planning software, pilot and maintainer training systems courseware, electronic warfare simulation test capability, and low-observable technologies.

F-35B Lightning II

The United Kingdom has welcomed home its first four F-35B Lightning II advanced fighter aircraft, which will be flown by the Royal Air Force (RAF) and Royal Navy.

Lockheed Martin-Built F-35 Comes Home to RAF Marham
Lockheed Martin-Built F-35 Comes Home to RAF Marham

With the aid of air-to-air refueling, the aircraft flew non-stop across the Atlantic from the U.S. Marine Corps Air Station in Beaufort, South Carolina where UK pilots have been undergoing intensive training on the aircraft in partnership with their USMC counterparts.

With stealth technology, advanced sensors, weapons capacity and range, the F-35 Lightning II 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.

«This aircraft will truly transform how the UK conducts its defence operations and it is fitting that the next generation of combat air power has arrived as the RAF celebrates its centenary», said Peter Ruddock, Chief Executive, Lockheed Martin UK. «As a key partner in the F-35 programme from its early stages, the UK has been instrumental in shaping the design and development of the aircraft, particularly in relation to the short take-off and vertical landing capabilities».

The programme has also greatly benefitted UK industry with more than 500 British companies involved in the supply chain. Around 15 percent by value of each of the more than 3,000 F-35 Lightning II aircraft projected on the programme is manufactured in the UK, and to date the programme has generated about U.S. $13 billion in contracts for British suppliers.

The aircraft have arrived two months ahead of schedule which will allow the UK’s Lightning Force to focus on achieving initial operational capability by the end of 2018. The first flight trials with the UK’s Queen Elizabeth Class aircraft carriers are expected later this year.

Comprehensive sustainment support for the UK’s fleet of F-35 Lightning II aircraft based at RAF Marham will be provided by Lightning Team UK, which represents the blended industry team of BAE Systems, Lockheed Martin, Pratt & Whitney and Rolls Royce.

The UK currently has 15 F-35B Lightning II aircraft in total, the remainder of which are stationed at Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Beaufort or Edwards Air Force Base in California, where they are involved in testing and training.

Around the world, there are now nearly 300 F-35 Lightning II aircraft operating from 15 bases globally and the programme has achieved more than 140,000 flight hours.

 

Specifications

Length 51.2 feet/15.6 m
Height 14.3 feet/4.36 m
Wingspan 35 feet/10.7 m
Wing area 460 feet2/42.7 m2
Horizontal tail span 21.8 feet/6.65 m
Weight empty 32,300 lbs/14,651 kg
Internal fuel capacity 13,500 lbs/6,125 kg
Weapons payload 15,000 lbs/6,800 kg
Maximum weight 60,000 lbs class/27,215 kg
Standard internal weapons load Two AIM-120C air-to-air missiles
Two 2,000-pound/907 kg GBU-31 JDAM (Joint Direct Attack Munition) guided bombs
Propulsion (uninstalled thrust ratings) F135-PW-600
Maximum Power (with afterburner) 41,000 lbs/182,4 kN/18,597 kgf
Military Power (without afterburner) 27,000 lbs/120,1 kN/12,247 kgf
Short Take Off Thrust 40,740 lbs/181,2 kN/18,479 kgf
Hover Thrust 40,650 lbs/180,8 kN/18,438 kgf
Main Engine 18,680 lbs/83,1 kN/8,473 kgf
Lift Fan 18,680 lbs/83,1 kN/8,473 kgf
Roll Post 3,290 lbs/14,6 kN/1,492 kgf
Main Engine Length 369 inch/9.37 m
Main Engine Inlet Diameter 43 inch/1.09 m
Main Engine Maximum Diameter 46 inch/1.17 m
Lift Fan Inlet Diameter 51 inch/1,30 m
Lift Fan Maximum Diameter 53 inch/1,34 m
Conventional Bypass Ratio 0.57
Powered Lift Bypass Ratio 0.51
Conventional Overall Pressure Ratio 28
Powered Lift Overall Pressure Ratio 29
Speed (full internal weapons load) Mach 1.6 (~1,043 knots/1,200 mph/1,931 km/h)
Combat radius (internal fuel) >450 NM/517.6 miles/833 km
Range (internal fuel) >900 NM/1,036 miles/1,667 km
Max g-rating 7.0
PLANNED QUANTITIES
U.S. Marine Corps 340
U.K. Royal Air Force/Royal Navy 138
Italy 30
In total 508

 

Environment Simulator

Preparing the F-35 Lightning II, the U.S. Navy’s most advanced fighter, for missions in today’s complex electromagnetic spectrum environment requires an equally advanced test environment. Northrop Grumman’s multispectral testing solution recreates the most accurate mission-like conditions in the laboratory and on the range. Recently, Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division (NAWCWD) Point Mugu took delivery of the most sophisticated test environment the company has ever created.

The CEESIM, SMS and SCS systems delivered to the U.S. Navy for the F-35 Lightning II provide RF simulation, measurement and synchronization of multiple, simultaneous emitters to faithfully simulate true-to-war conditions
The CEESIM, SMS and SCS systems delivered to the U.S. Navy for the F-35 Lightning II provide RF simulation, measurement and synchronization of multiple, simultaneous emitters to faithfully simulate true-to-war conditions

The environment consists of Northrop Grumman’s Combat Electromagnetic Environment Simulator (CEESIM), Signal Measurement System (SMS) and other stimulators, all under control of the Synchronizer Controller System (SCS).

«Keeping the F-35’s systems ready requires a fully integrated test environment like we have developed with CEESIM, SMS and SCS», said Joe Downie, director, land and avionics C4ISR division, Northrop Grumman Mission Systems. «These systems work together to provide the environment complexity and density, measurement and analysis capability, and test control capability necessary to evaluate the F-35 in a realistic mission scenario».

At the center of the environment is the CEESIM, which simulates multiple, simultaneous Radio Frequency (RF) emitters as well as static and dynamic platform attributes to faithfully model true-to-war conditions. CEESIM’s Advanced Pulse Generation high speed direct digital synthesizer technology is used to generate realistic electronic warfare mission scenarios.

The SMS provides wide bandwidth signal measurement, recording and analysis capability which is used to validate the test environment and evaluate the system under test performance.

The SCS provides the tools to program an integrated multispectral test scenario, including threat radars, communications signals, radar and Electro-Optical/InfraRed (EO/IR) signatures. The SCS also manages the execution of the scenario by all of the stimulators to ensure a coherent multispectral test environment.

Operational flights

The Marine Corps’ F/A-18 Hornet squadrons recently flew with the Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System (APKWS), a highly accurate 2.75-inch/70-mm rocket that provides air-to-ground weapon support.

The Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System (APKWS) is loaded onto an F/A-18 to prepare for the weapon's initial deployment with the aircraft in March 2018 (U.S. Navy photo)
The Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System (APKWS) is loaded onto an F/A-18 to prepare for the weapon’s initial deployment with the aircraft in March 2018 (U.S. Navy photo)

APKWS allows the F/A-18A-D Hornet to maintain a forward-firing, moving-target capability while increasing available ordnance per aircraft and provides a more efficient weapons match versus target sets currently seen in theater.

«This is an incredible weapons system that our most experienced pilots down to the newest pilots can effectively employ», said Lieutenant Colonel Jon «TAG» Curtis, commanding officer of one of the F/A-18 Hornet squadrons.

The low-cost 2.75-inch/70-mm rocket has a laser guidance kit that gives it precision-kill capability. It has ability to destroy targets while limiting collateral damage in close combat.

Curtis’ squadron received the new weapon system in February and completed ground training and in-flight training to ensure the weapon worked effectively. All of the weapons fired during training directly impacted the final aim point.

«The PMA-242 APKWS and PMA-265 F/A-18 Hornet joint Integrated Product Team (IPT), with key stakeholders (Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft and Weapons Divisions, VX-31/VX-9, Marine Corps headquarters and BAE Systems), rapidly developed and executed an integration plan, cutting normal integration time by nine months and saving $4.9 million of allocated funds», said Lieutenant Commander Daniel Ropp, APKWS deputy program manager

The team established a land-based integration program to expedite fielding with a limited employment envelope using a tailored approach in engineering, logistics, and contracting to deliver units to theater as quickly as possible. This effort supported on time training and operational employment of APKWS for the deploying squadron in Operation Inherent Resolve (OIR), exemplifying «Speed to the Fleet», he said.

The F/A-18 Hornet is the second U.S. Navy fixed-wing platform to carry APKWS. It is also employed from the AV-8B Harrier II as well as rotary-wing platforms including the UH-1Y Venom, AH-1Z Viper and MH-60S/R Seahawk. The U.S. Navy and Marine Corps have fired thousands of combined fixed- and rotary-wing shots and hundreds in combat scenarios.

Flight Test Program

The F-35 program has accomplished the final developmental test flight of the System Development and Demonstration (SDD) phase of the program.

F-35 Completes Most Comprehensive Flight Test Program in Aviation History
F-35 Completes Most Comprehensive Flight Test Program in Aviation History

«Completing F-35 SDD flight test is the culmination of years of hard work and dedication from the joint government and industry team», said Vice Adm. Mat Winter, F-35 Program Executive Officer. «Since the first flight of AA-1 in 2006, the developmental flight test program has operated for more than 11 years mishap-free, conducting more than 9,200 sorties, accumulating over 17,000 flight hours, and executing more than 65,000 test points to verify the design, durability, software, sensors, weapons capability and performance for all three F-35 variants. Congratulations to our F-35 Test Team and the broader F-35 Enterprise for delivering this new powerful and decisive capability to the warfighter».

The final SDD flight occurred 11 April 2018 at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Maryland when Navy test aircraft CF-2 completed a mission to collect loads data while carrying external 2,000-pound/907-kg GBU-31 Joint Direct Attack Munitions (JDAM) and AIM-9X Sidewinder heat-seeking missiles.

From flight sciences to mission systems testing, the critical work completed by F-35 test teams cleared the way for the Block 3F capability to be delivered to the operational warfighter. More than a thousand SDD flight test engineers, maintainers, pilots and support personnel took the three variants of the F-35 to their full flight envelope to test aircraft performance and flying qualities. The test team conducted 6 at-sea detachments and performed more than 1,500 vertical landing tests on the F-35B variant. The developmental flight test team completed 183 Weapon Separation Tests; 46 Weapons Delivery Accuracy tests; 33 Mission Effectiveness tests, which included numerous multi-ship missions of up to eight F-35s against advanced threats.

«The F-35 flight test program represents the most comprehensive, rigorous and the safest developmental flight test program in aviation history», said Greg Ulmer, Lockheed Martin’s vice president and general manager of the F-35 program. «The joint government and industry team demonstrated exceptional collaboration and expertise, and the results have given the men and women who fly the F-35 great confidence in its transformational capability».

Developmental flight test is a key component of the F-35 program’s SDD phase, which will formally be completed following an Operational Test and Evaluation and a Department of Defense decision to go into full-rate aircraft production.

While SDD required flight test is now complete, F-35 flight testing continues in support of phased capability improvements and modernization of the F-35 air system. This effort is part of the Joint Program Office’s Continuous Capability Development and Delivery (C2D2) framework, which will provide timely, affordable incremental warfighting capability improvements to maintain joint air dominance against evolving threats to the United States and its allies.

With stealth technology, advanced sensors, weapons capacity and 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 that enhances all airborne, surface and ground-based assets in the battlespace and enables men and women in uniform to execute their mission and return home safe.