Category Archives: Fighters

Indian Rafale

October 8th, 2019, Eric Trappier, Dassault Aviation Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, hosted the handover ceremony of the first Indian Air Force Rafale in Mérignac, Dassault Aviation’s Rafale final assembly facility. The event was placed under the high patronage of the Honourable Shri Rajnath Singh, Minister of Defence of India and the Honourable Ms. Florence Parly, Minister of the Armed Forces of France.

Ceremony held in Dassault Aviation Mérignac facility on October 8th, 2019, in the frame of the celebrations of Air Force Day

The ceremony, 3 years after the signature of the contract in 2016 for the acquisition of 36 Rafale to equip the Indian Air Force, marks the concretization of the strategic relationship between India and France and the celebration of the history of mutual trust between India and Dassault Aviation for more than 65 years.

The handover of the first IAF Rafale, materializes the determination of the French Authorities to fulfill the expectations and needs of the Government of India to comfort India’s protection and sovereignty and illustrates the exemplary cooperation between Dassault Aviation and the Indian Air Force, one of the most remarkable partner Dassault Aviation’s has ever worked with.

The setup of the Dassault Reliance JV (DRAL) production facility in Nagpur as well as the significant support of  the educational and scientific policy of the Indian Government through the establishing of an engineering center in Pune, the creation of the «Dassault Skill Academy» and the implementation of a vocational training programme «Aeronautical Structure and Equipment Fitter», demonstrate Dassault Aviation full commitment to the «Make in India» and «Skill India» initiatives in building the foundations for a national aerospace and defence ecosystem to become a worldwide reference of the sector.

Supported by Dassault Aviation partners, Thales already present in Nagpur, Safran to inaugurate its facility in Hyderabad as well as the French aeronautics and defence community among which twenty companies are already settled in India, this approach will mutually benefit both Indian and French industries and will contribute to guaranty both countries to meet tomorrow’s aeronautical challenges.

«I am particularly honored to host this ceremony today as India is part of Dassault Aviation’s DNA. The long and trustful relationship we share is an undeniable success and underpins my determination of establishing for the long term Dassault Aviation in India. We stand alongside the Indian Air Force since 1953, we are totally committed to fulfill its requirements for the decades to come and to be part of India’s ambitious vision for the future», has declared Eric Trappier, Chairman and CEO of Dassault Aviation.

Golden Eagle

September 15 2019, two new «Adir» (F-35I) aircraft landed in Nevatim Air Force Base (AFB). The two fighter jets will join the ranks of the IAF’s «Adir» Division, which was declared operational in December 2017.

Two new «Adir» aircraft land in Israel

The continuous integration of the «Adir» aircraft is another aspect of the long-running military cooperation between Israel and the U.S., which continues to show optimal results. The Israeli Air Force (IAF) is the first force in the world besides the United States to operate the «Adir» (F-35I).

The «Adir» Squadron’s capabilities provide another component to the air force’s existing operational and strategic capabilities, which ensure its supremacy in all missions, the first of which being protecting Israel.

The «Adir» is currently operated by the 140th («Golden Eagle») Squadron. In several months, the 116th («Defenders of the South») Squadron is due to be established as the second «Adir» squadron. The establishment of the squadron’s first building was celebrated last April in a ceremony, which also saw the reveal of its new emblem. «The squadron – as part of the ‘Adir’ Division – signifies the IAF’s momentum», said Brigadier General Eyal Grinboim, then commander of Nevatim AFB.

«The establishment of the 116th Squadron marks the beginning of the ‘Adir’ Division», said Lieutenant Colonel N’, commander of the squadron’s establishment crew. «A major part of the establishment process touches upon the complexity of this transformation. We take a well-developed squadron and maintain its power while creating another one to function alongside it».

 

Specifications

Length 51.4 feet/15.7 m
Height 14.4 feet/4.38 m
Wingspan 35 feet/10.7 m
Wing area 460 feet2/42.7 m2
Horizontal tail span 22.5 feet/6.86 m
Weight empty 29,300 lbs/13,290 kg
Internal fuel capacity 18,250 lbs/8,278 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-100
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
Engine Length 220 in/5.59 m
Engine Inlet Diameter 46 in/1.17 m
Engine Maximum Diameter 51 in/1.30 m
Bypass Ratio 0.57
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) >590 NM/679 miles/1,093 km
Range (internal fuel) >1,200 NM/1,367 miles/2,200 km
Maximum g-rating 9.0

 

Meteor and Spear

A team of BAE Systems, Lockheed Martin and MBDA engineers enhancing the capability of the UK’s fleet of F-35 Lightning II aircraft by commencing work on the integration of next generation weapons.

Work starts integrating next generation Meteor and Spear onto UK F-35 Fleet
Work starts integrating next generation Meteor and Spear onto UK F-35 Fleet

BAE Systems has received an initial funding award from Lockheed Martin, the prime contractor on the F-35 Lightning II programme, to start integration efforts for MBDA’s Meteor beyond visual range air-to-air missile and SPEAR precision surface attack missile.

Under this initial package of work BAE Systems and Lockheed Martin will also complete further integration work with MBDA on Advanced Short Range Air-to-Air Missile (ASRAAM) and with Raytheon on Paveway IV, initially integrated in support of delivering Initial Operating Capability (IOC) for the UK.

Tom Fillingham, Senior Vice-President – U.S. Programmes of BAE Systems, said: «BAE Systems engineers played a crucial role in supporting the UK to achieve Initial Operating Capability for its F-35 fleet. Now, working alongside our partners including Lockheed Martin and MBDA, we are using our expertise to take that capability even further with advanced weapons systems such as Meteor and SPEAR. We are extremely proud of the critical contribution UK engineers are playing for both the UK and the global F-35 fleet through the development, production and sustainment of the aircraft».

Cliff Waldwyn, Head of Combat Air, Group Business Development of MBDA, said: «This is a significant milestone for the UK Combat Air’s capability. This initial package of work officially commences the integration of Meteor and SPEAR and will enhance the operational capability of the UK’s Lightning Force in the future; it is also a positive step for the wider F-35 enterprise as it adds additional capability choice for international customers. MBDA’s integration team have worked well with our BAE Systems and Lockheed Martin colleagues and we plan to build on this excellent foundation into the future on this follow-on modernisation work».

Last year, a pilot from 17 Squadron, the RAF’s F-35 Test and Evaluation Squadron at Edwards Air Force Base, California took to the skies for the first time with UK weapons, including ASRAAM and Paveway IV.

This followed work carried out during the F-35 Lightning II programme’s System Development and Demonstration (SDD) initial testing phase to develop and certify weapons capabilities by an integrated test team. This team includes Lockheed Martin, BAE Systems, Raytheon and MBDA, working alongside the UK Air Warfare Centre to clear weapons for Operational Testing by Royal Air Force/Royal Navy (RAF/RN) pilots.

Safe-For-Flight

The Commander, Naval Air Forces and the U.S. Marine Corps Deputy Commandant for Aviation jointly announced that the aircraft carrier variant of the Joint Strike Fighter, the F-35C Lightning II, met all requirements and achieved Initial Operational Capability (IOC).

Three F-35C Lightning II aircraft attached to the «Argonauts» of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 147, the «Rough Raiders» of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 125 and the «Grim Reapers» of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 101, all attached to Commander, Joint Strike Fighter Wing, complete a flight over Eglin Air Force Base in Fort Walton Beach, Florida, February 1, 2019. Commander, Joint Strike Fighter Wing, headquartered at NASL ensures that each F-35C Lightning II squadron is fully combat-ready to conduct carrier-based, all-weather, attack, fighter and support missions for Commander, Naval Air Forces. With its stealth technology, advanced sensors, weapons capacity and range, the F-35C Lightning II will be the first 5th generation aircraft operated from an aircraft carrier (U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Shannon E. Renfroe/Released)
Three F-35C Lightning II aircraft attached to the «Argonauts» of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 147, the «Rough Raiders» of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 125 and the «Grim Reapers» of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 101, all attached to Commander, Joint Strike Fighter Wing, complete a flight over Eglin Air Force Base in Fort Walton Beach, Florida, February 1, 2019. Commander, Joint Strike Fighter Wing, headquartered at NASL ensures that each F-35C Lightning II squadron is fully combat-ready to conduct carrier-based, all-weather, attack, fighter and support missions for Commander, Naval Air Forces. With its stealth technology, advanced sensors, weapons capacity and range, the F-35C Lightning II will be the first 5th generation aircraft operated from an aircraft carrier (U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Shannon E. Renfroe/Released)

The February 28 announcement comes shortly after the Department of the Navy’s first F-35C Lightning II squadron, Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 147, completed aircraft carrier qualifications aboard USS Carl Vinson (CVN-70) and received Safe-For-Flight Operations Certification.

In order to declare IOC, the first operational squadron must be properly manned, trained and equipped to conduct assigned missions in support of fleet operations. This includes having 10 Block 3F, F-35C Lightning II aircraft, requisite spare parts, support equipment, tools, technical publications, training programs and a functional Autonomic Logistic Information System (ALIS).

Additionally, the ship that supports the first squadron must possess the proper infrastructure, qualifications and certifications. Lastly, the Joint Program Office, industry, and Naval Aviation must demonstrate that all procedures, processes and policies are in place to sustain operations.

«The F-35C is ready for operations, ready for combat and ready to win», said Commander Naval Air Forces, Vice Admiral DeWolfe Miller. «We are adding an incredible weapon system into the arsenal of our Carrier Strike Groups that significantly enhances the capability of the joint force».

Naval Air Station (NAS) Lemoore is the home-base for the Navy’s Joint Strike Fighter Wing, Navy F-35C Lightning II fleet squadrons and the Fleet Replacement Squadron (FRS), VFA-125 that trains Navy and Marine Corps CVN-based Joint Strike Fighter pilots. To accommodate the F-35C Lightning II program at NAS Lemoore, several facilities were built or remodeled to facilitate specific F-35C Lightning II requirements with regard to maintenance and training, including a Pilot Fit Facility, Centralized Engine Repair Facility, Pilot Training Center and a newly-remodeled hangar. Future projects are planned as additional Navy squadrons transition into the F-35C Lightning II. The Marine Corps plans to transition four F-35C Lightning II squadrons that will be assigned to Carrier Air Wings for deployments.

«We’re very proud of what our Sailors have accomplished in the Joint Strike Fighter community», said CAPT Max McCoy, commodore of the U.S. Navy’s Joint Strike Fighter Wing. «Their commitment to mission delivered fifth generation capability to the carrier air wing, making us more combat effective than ever before. We will continue to learn and improve ways to maintain and sustain F-35C as we prepare for first deployment. The addition of F-35C to existing Carrier Air Wing capability ensures that we can fight and win in contested battlespace now and well into the future».

Meanwhile, Rear Admiral Dale Horan, director, USN F-35C Lightning II Fleet Integration Office said, «The F-35C will revolutionize capability and operating concepts of aircraft carrier-based naval aviation using advanced technologies to find, fix and assess threats and, if necessary, track, target and engage them in all contested environments», adding «This accomplishment represents years of hard work on the part of the F-35 Joint Program Office and Naval Aviation Enterprise. Our focus has now shifted to applying lessons learned from this process to future squadron transitions, and preparing VFA-147 for their first overseas deployment».

The mission-ready F-35C Lightning II is the latest addition to U.S. Navy’s Carrier Air Wing. With its stealth technology, state-of-the-art avionics, advanced sensors, weapons capacity and range, the aircraft carrier-based F-35C Lightning II provides unprecedented air superiority, interdiction, suppression of enemy air defenses and close-air-support as well as advanced command and control functions through fused sensors. These state-of-the art capabilities provide pilots and combatant commanders unrivaled battlespace awareness and lethality. The F-35C Lightning II is the final U.S. Joint Strike Fighter variant to declare IOC and follows the USAF’s F-35A Lightning II and USMC’s F-35B Lightning II. IOC declaration is a significant milestone.

 

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

 

500th center fuselage

On February 21, 2019, Northrop Grumman Corporation has completed the 500th center fuselage for the F-35 Lightning II – ahead of schedule.

An F-35 technician performs a skin assembly process with work instructions projected on the structure as one of the innovative solutions for high rate military aircraft production. A core structure of the F-35 Lightning II aircraft, the center fuselage is produced on Northrop Grumman's integrated assembly line at its Palmdale Aircraft Integration Center of Excellence
An F-35 technician performs a skin assembly process with work instructions projected on the structure as one of the innovative solutions for high rate military aircraft production. A core structure of the F-35 Lightning II aircraft, the center fuselage is produced on Northrop Grumman’s integrated assembly line at its Palmdale Aircraft Integration Center of Excellence

«We deliver an F-35 center fuselage every 36 hours and I am very proud to say we have made all our deliveries since the inception of the program», said Frank Carus, vice president and F-35 Lightning II program manager, Northrop Grumman. «Our dedicated team works closely with the customer and suppliers to improve quality and affordability in support of the warfighter».

Designated AU-18, the 500th F-35 Lightning II center fuselage is for a conventional takeoff and landing variant for the Royal Australian Air Force. Northrop Grumman began production on the AU-18 center fuselage in June 2018 and completed work on February 21. Northrop Grumman has been producing center fuselages for all three F-35 Lightning II variants since May 2004.

«We have set the standard for the production of military aircraft», said Kevin Mickey, sector vice president and general manager, military aircraft systems, Northrop Grumman. «Our teams and suppliers are constantly finding better, more affordable ways to deliver a superior product on-time, at-cost and, as with this center fuselage, ahead of schedule. When you couple this level of commitment with advanced manufacturing technologies, it’s just a win-win situation for us, our customer and the warfighter».

A core structure of the F-35 Lightning II aircraft, the center fuselage is designed and produced on Northrop Grumman’s integrated assembly line, 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.

Lockheed Martin is the industry lead for the F-35 Lightning II program and Northrop Grumman plays a key role in the development, modernization, sustainment and production of the F-35 Lightning II. In addition to producing the 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.

New Generation Fighter

France and Germany have awarded the first-ever contract – a Joint Concept Study (JCS) – to Dassault Aviation and Airbus for the Future Combat Air System (FCAS) programme. The launch of the JCS was announced by the French Minister of the Armed Forces, Florence Parly, and her German counterpart, Ursula von der Leyen, at a meeting today in Paris.

Airbus and Dassault Aviation sign Joint Concept Study contract for Future Combat Air System
Airbus and Dassault Aviation sign Joint Concept Study contract for Future Combat Air System

The decision by both countries represents a milestone to secure European sovereignty and technological leadership in the military aviation sector for the coming decades. Starting date for the two-year study is 20 February 2019.

Eric Trappier, Chairman and CEO of Dassault Aviation, said: «This new step is the cornerstone to ensure tomorrow’s European strategic autonomy. We, as Dassault Aviation, will mobilize our competencies as System Architect and Integrator, to meet the requirements of the Nations and to keep our continent as a world-class leader in the crucial field of Air Combat Systems».

Dirk Hoke, CEO of Airbus Defence and Space, said: «FCAS is one of the most ambitious European defence programmes of the century. With today’s contract signature, we are finally setting this high-technology programme fully in motion. Both companies are committed to providing the best solutions to our Nations with regard to the New Generation Fighter as well as the systems of systems accompanying it. We are truly excited about having been given this opportunity and appreciate the trust placed in both our companies».

This planned Next Generation Weapons System will consist of a highly capable manned «New Generation Fighter» (NGF) teaming with a set of new and upgraded weapons as well as a set of unmanned systems (Remote Carriers) linked by a Combat Cloud and its Ecosystem embedded in a System-of-Systems FCAS architecture.

The JCS is based on the bi-nationally agreed High Level Common Operational Requirements Document (HLCORD) signed at Berlin Air Show ILA in April 2018 between the Defence Ministers of France and Germany as well as respective national concept studies.

Its aim is to conceptualise the different FCAS capabilities and to pave the way for future design, industrialisation, as well as an estimated full operational capability by 2040. The study will prepare and initiate demonstrator programmes for launch at the Paris Air Show in June 2019.

British air power

Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson has today revealed that Britain’s combat air power has reached new heights whilst speaking in a brand-new hangar displaying one-hundred years of fighter jets.

Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson sets sights on next century of British air power as major fighter jet milestones are reached
Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson sets sights on next century of British air power as major fighter jet milestones are reached

Speaking at Royal Air Force (RAF) Marham, the Defence Secretary announced the UK now has nine F-35B Lightning II jets ready to be deployed on operations around the world.

The F-35B Lightnings II will form the backbone of the UK’s combat air fleet alongside the Typhoon jets, which the Defence Secretary also announced have now been fitted with a state-of-the-art complex weapons suite to vastly increase its capability.

Under «Project Centurion», worth £425m over the past three years, the Typhoon now has deep strike cruise missile Storm Shadow, air-to-air missile Meteor and the precision attack missile Brimstone at their disposal.

It means the jets have boosted capabilities to intercept airborne missiles and strike ground based targets, seamlessly taking over from the Tornado’s attack role as it nears retirement.

Completed on-time and to budget, the upgrades transform the fleet into a world-leading multi-role combat air platform for decades to come.

Military engineers and personnel have worked together with hundreds of UK workers from British defence firms including BAE Systems, MBDA and Leonardo to reach the milestone.

The Defence Secretary made the announcement in front of four different aircraft, in a brand-new maintenance hangar at RAF Marham, which he opened today along with a state-of-the-art new training centre.

These facilities, along with resurfaced runways and new landing pads to accommodate the jet’s ability to land vertically, are a key part of the £550m being invested in the Norfolk base.

Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson said: «As we bid farewell to the RAF’s first century, we are setting our sights on the next 100 years. Our nation is moving into a new era outside the EU, and our huge achievements in air capability make our commitment to a role on the world stage clear to both our allies and our enemies. The incredible F-35 jets are ready for operations, a transformed Typhoon has the power to dominate the skies into the 2040s and we continue to look even further into an ambitious future. The RAF has long shown Britain at its great and global best, and today it lifts our nation to even greater heights».

The year ahead will see the F-35B Lightning II pilots and ground crew continue learning how to operate and maintain the jets in the new centre, which features state-of-the-art simulators, classrooms, and physical aircraft mock-ups.

The facility provides a real-life training environment replicating the challenges that both pilots and crew will face in supporting and operating the F-35B Lightning II.

Pilots from 617 Squadron, who are already based at RAF Marham, will practice flying the next generation aircraft from four full mission simulators.

Having the F-35s ready for operations on time is a huge landmark in what is the biggest defence project in history, which the UK has been a leading partner in for almost 25 years.

Around 150 UK personnel had been working with the jets in the US before the first batch of aircraft came to the UK last summer.

Not only does the programme offer the UK a game-changing military capability, but with British industry manufacturing 15% of a global orderbook of over 3,000 jets, it supports around 25,000 UK jobs and is projected to be worth around £35bn to the national economy.

The Defence Secretary made the announcement in front of four aircraft, which represent the past and future of British fighter jets.

They included the Tornado, which has been in-service since 1979, making its combat debut in the 1991 Gulf War, and which will be retired later this year.

Its unique capabilities have now been transferred to the Typhoon.

In addition to the Typhoon and F-35B Lightning II, the Tempest concept fighter jet model was also on show.

The model, which represents an example of what the UK’s future capability might look like, was unveiled last Summer at Farnborough International Air Show, when the Defence Secretary launched the nation’s Combat Air Strategy to ensure the UK remains a world-leader in the sector for years to come.

The aim is then for a next-generation capability to have initial operational capability by 2035.

Chief of the Air Staff Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen Hillier said: «I am proud to confirm that the RAF’s Combat Air capability has taken yet another significant step towards the realisation of our Next Generation Air Force. With its cutting-edge stealth technology, our F-35s are now ready to deploy on operations and, alongside our combat-proven Typhoon, offer a step-change in our ability to employ air power around the world. Furthermore, the successful integration of Stormshadow, Brimstone and Meteor on Typhoon completes and enhances the transition of world-class capabilities from Tornado and allows a stalwart of the RAF’s Combat Air inventory to retire from service. The successful attainment of these milestones and the potential offered by Project TEMPEST will continue to assure the RAF’s ability to protect the nation, defend the United Kingdom’s interests and support the national prosperity agenda now and well into the future».

The RAF has already trialled its Typhoon and F-35B Lightning II Forces’ interoperability.

In a series of operational trials, the evidence clearly demonstrates the effectiveness of both platforms when operating alongside one another.

With its larger payload and increased agility and range, the Typhoon will operate in concert with the stealthy F-35B Lightning II and its next-generation sensors, making the RAF one of the few air forces with the ability to exploit the synergy of 4th and 5th generation combat aircraft and delivering the UK a potent force equipped to counter evolving threats in the global environment.

The UK is a world-leader in the combat air sector, which supports over 18,000 highly skilled jobs with a mix of skills and technologies unique in Europe.

The sector delivers a turnover in excess of £6bn a year and has made up over 80% of defence exports from the UK over the last ten years.

Safe-for-Flight

The «Argonauts» of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 147 completed their carrier qualifications December 12 aboard USS Carl Vinson (CVN-70), the final required component for Commander, Joint Strike Fighter Wing (CJSFW) to issue the squadron its safe-for-flight operations certification. This marks a major milestone for the U.S. Navy toward declaring Initial Operating Capability (IOC) next year.

Sailors direct an F-35C Lightning II assigned to the «Argonauts» of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 147 on the flight deck of Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN-70) (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Ethan J. Soto/Released)
Sailors direct an F-35C Lightning II assigned to the «Argonauts» of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 147 on the flight deck of Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN-70) (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Ethan J. Soto/Released)

The Safe-For-Flight Operations Certification (SFFOC) is the final step for VFA-147’s transition from the F/A-18E Super Hornet to the F-35C Lightning II. This process ensures a squadron is manned with qualified personnel to implement maintenance and safety programs in support of fleet operations. All transitioning squadrons are required to complete this certification prior to independently conducting flight operations.

When introducing a new aircraft to the fleet, the appropriate Fleet Replacement Squadron (FRS) is assigned oversight responsibility for the transitioning unit. The VFA-125 «Rough Raiders» were re-activated in January 2017 to fulfill the appropriate FRS role for the Lightning II. Since completing their combat deployment last winter, VFA-147 has been working with the Rough Raiders to accomplish the safe-for-flight operations certification. The Argonauts will be able to operate independently from the Rough Raiders, having received their safe-for-flight operations certification.

«Since we returned from deployment last December, our team has been driving toward fully bringing this platform online for the U.S. Navy», said VFA-147 Commanding Officer Cmdr. Patrick Corrigan. «As the Argonauts close out 2018 and the final stages of our safe-for-flight certification, we continue to exhibit the relentless drive required to meet transition goals and milestones. With this certification, we are announcing that we have the right skills, training and people to take this mission and execute it, to its fullest potential».

The safe-for-flight operations certification encompasses areas such as equipment, personnel and programs. Not least among them is the requirement for the squadron to be in the physical custody of at least 30 percent of the assigned aircraft. Other requirements include the installation and operation of management information systems such as Autonomic Logistics Information System (ALIS) and its accompanying support networks. There is also a requirement for operational F-35C Lightning II squadrons to maintain robust, on-track, maintenance programs, as well as complete various inspections ranging from weapons to safety. Aircrew complete a transition flight syllabus and maintain certain proficiencies in accordance with Naval Air Training and Operating Procedures and Standardization (NATOPS).

«The Argonauts’ safe-for-flight operations certification was earned through the herculean effort of squadron Sailors and is an acknowledgement that they have developed the skills to safely maintain and operate the F-35C Lightning II», said Joint Strike Fighter Wing Commander Capt. Max McCoy. «We eagerly look forward to declaring IOC and integrating the F-35C Lightning II into the carrier strike group. This aircraft is a key component to maintaining the U.S. Navy’s dominance anywhere in the world».

«VFA-147 continues to accomplish significant milestones, advancing this program closer to its ultimate goal of integrating the F-35C Lightning II into the fleet», said McCoy. «The exceptional performance of the squadron throughout the entire transition process is a testament to the hard-working Sailors who make the U.S. Navy F-35C Lightning II program a reality. We will succeed because the professionals in this program will not let it fail. It is evident in all that they do. It is who we are as a team».

Commander, Joint Strike Fighter Wing, headquartered at Naval Air Station Lemoore, California, ensures that each F-35C Lightning II squadron is fully combat-ready to conduct carrier-based, all-weather, attack, fighter and support missions for Commander, Naval Air Forces. With its stealth technology, advanced sensors, weapons capacity and range, the F-35C Lightning II will be the first 5th generation aircraft operated from an aircraft carrier. Currently, the U.S. Navy F-35C Lightning II program is scheduled to declare initial operating capability by the end of February 2019.

 

F-35C Lightning II launch From USS Carl Vinson (CVN-70)

 

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

 

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