Tag Archives: F-35

Project Hydra

Lockheed Martin Skunk Works, the Missile Defense Agency (MDA) and the U.S. Air Force successfully linked a U-2, five F-35s and an F-22 in air and provided real-time 5th Generation data to operators on the ground, introducing greater mission flexibility across domains and an enhanced total operational picture for the joint warfighter.

Project Hydra
Lockheed Martin Skunk Works’ Project Hydra Demonstrates 5th Gen To 5th Gen Communications Across Domains

Named Project Hydra, the latest flight test leveraged an Open Systems Gateway (OSG) payload aboard the U-2 to connect an F-22 to five F-35s via native Intra-Flight Data Link (IFDL) and Multifunction Advanced Data Link (MADL), successfully sharing data between all airborne aircraft and with nodes on the ground. The target tracks were also transmitted by and through the U-2 into the fighter avionics and pilot displays.

«Project Hydra marks the first time that bi-directional communications were established between 5th Generation aircraft in-flight while also sharing operational and sensor data down to ground operators for real-time capability», said Jeff Babione, vice president and general manager, Lockheed Martin Skunk Works. «This next-level connectivity reduces the data-to-decision timeline from minutes to seconds, which is critical in fighting today’s adversaries and advanced threats».

The Project Hydra effort also marked the first time F-35 sensor data was delivered to an operational ground system over a Tactical Targeting Network Terminal (TTNT) link using an airborne gateway. This data was then sent to the US Army Integrated Battle Command System (IBCS) Airborne Sensor Adaptation Kit (A-Kit), also developed by Lockheed Martin. The A-Kit then transmitted data to the IBCS Tactical System Integration Laboratory (TSIL) at Fort Bliss, Texas. IBCS used the F-35 sensor data to conduct a simulated Army fires exercise.

The core of the Hydra payload leverages the Open Mission Systems (OMS) compliant Enterprise Mission Computer 2 (EMC2), facilitating F-22, F-35, TTNT and Link-16 connections.  By leveraging both Line-Of-Sight (LOS) and Beyond Line-Of-Sight (BLOS) datalink capabilities of the U-2, data can now be shared directly to tactical users and globally to Command and Control (C2) nodes like the Common Mission Control Center (CMCC). During this demonstration, both the CMCC and Shadow Operations Center at Nellis Air Force Base were able to view the sensor and platform data to enable situational awareness for operational command and control of highly capable air assets.

Bringing the power of 5th Generation data and exposing new C2 opportunities across multiple domains continues to demonstrate Lockheed Martin’s readiness to provide unmatched battlespace awareness and rapidly field capability today. This demonstration is another key step forward in Lockheed Martin’s support for the Air Force’s Advanced Battle Management System and the Army’s Project Convergence, supporting the goal of providing commanders critical tools for the joint all-domain battlespace environment.

Gun on Schedule

It is said in the Defense News, the gun on the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter remains on schedule to go operational in 2017. The Daily Beast reported on December 31, 2014 that the gun would not be able to be used until 2019, but in a statement F-35 joint program office spokesman Joe DellaVedova described that story as a «misreporting» of the facts.

F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF)
F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF)

The gun in question is a 25-mm system known as the GAU-22, developed by General Dynamics. It is internal on the F-35A model and carried in an external pod of the F-35B and F-35C designs. GAU-22 testing for all three models is scheduled to start this year. Since 2005, DellaVedova said, the GAU-22 was planned to go operational with the block 3F software. That software is scheduled to go online in 2017, with Low-Rate Initial Production lot 9.

«Delivering the gun capability in the block 3F software is well known to the military services, International Partners and our Foreign Military Sales (FMS) customers», DellaVedova said. «That has always been the stated requirement and plan and it hasn’t varied since the technical baseline review in 2010». DellaVedova did acknowledge a «minor low-level issue» with the gun’s software, but said that issue was identified as part of testing and would be resolved by spring of 2015, without affecting the timetable for the gun’s fielding.

While the gun is currently on schedule, that does leave a gap between when the first Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II squadrons go operational and when the gun can be used. Thus, the F-35B jump-jet variant is scheduled to go operational for the Marines in mid-2015, while the F-35A conventional take-off and landing model will go operational for the Air Force in the fall of 2016. The Navy’s carrier variant F-35C is scheduled to go operational in 2018, with a more up-to-date software package.

GAU-22 testing for all three models is scheduled to start this year
GAU-22 testing for all three models is scheduled to start this year

In the meantime, the F-35 will conduct Close-Air Support (CAS) operations with a mix of air-to-ground precision weapons, including the AMRAAM (Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile), JDAM (Joint Direct Attack Munition) and GBU-12 (Guided Bomb Unit).

Major Gen. Jay Silveria, who commands the USAF Warfare Center at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, and is developing tactics for the jet, told reporters in a December 2014 interview that the plane will rely much more on its Precision Guided Munitions (PGMs) than the gun for close air support. «I think, so far, it looks like the PGMs will be more useful in the CAS role», Silveria said, before noting «we have not really completed all of the operational testing on the CAS».


F-35 Lightning II 25mm Gun System

General Dynamics Ordnance and Tactical Systems has been awarded a system development and demonstration contract by Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Company to design, produce and integrate the gun systems for the F-35 Lightning II stealth fighter.

GD-OTS is devel­oping the GAU-22/A for the internal and external gun systems based on a derivative of its GAU-12/U 25-mm Gatling gun. An internally mounted gun system will arm the F-35A Conventional TakeOff and Landing aircraft variant and a removable or «missionized» externally mounted gun system will arm the F-35B Short TakeOff and Vertical Landing and F-35C Carrier-Based aircraft variants.


Internal Gun System

The F-35A Lightning II gun system will include the GAU-22/A derivative gun; a linear linkless ammunition feed system, a gun system control unit and a 4,000-pounds-per-square-inch hydraulic drive assembly.

CTOL (Conventional TakeOff and Landing) Gun System
CTOL (Conventional TakeOff and Landing) Gun System


External Gun System

The «missionized» gun system designed for the F-35B and F-35C will be hard-mounted to the cen­terline station of the aircraft. This gun system will include the CTOL-common GAU-22/A derivative gun, a gun system control unit and drive assembly, and a helical linear linkless ammunition feed system contained in a conformal pod.

STOVL/CV (Short TakeOff and Vertical Landing and Carrier-Based) Gun System
STOVL/CV (Short TakeOff and Vertical Landing and Carrier-Based) Gun System



Gun type:             Four-barrel, 25-mm, externally powered Gatling gun

Weight (without ammunition)

Internal system:                    416 pounds/189 kg

External system:                   735 pounds/334 kg

Rate of fire:                              3,000 shots per minute

Dispersion:                               5 milliradians diameter, 80 percent circle

Muzzle velocity

TP (Target Practice), HEI (High-Explosive Incendiary) ammunition:                                                              3,560 feet/1,085 m per second

API (Armor Piercing Incendiary) ammunition:        3,400 feet/1,036 m per second

Average recoil force:          4,000 pounds/17.8 kN

Feed system:                           Conventional linear linkless (CTOL), helical

Drive system:                         Hydraulic


Rule, Britannia!
Rule the waves!

As defense-aerospace.com reported, the U.S. Department of Defense and Lockheed Martin finalized the eighth F-35 Low Rate Initial Production (LRIP-8) contract for 43 F-35 Lightning II airframes valued at $4.7 billion, including $0.5 billion of Advance Procurement funding that was announced at the time of award.

F-35A Lightning II
2014 Darin Russell
Lockheed Martin

The 43 F-35 include 29 jets for the United States and 14 for five international countries. This agreement reflects an average airframes unit cost approximately 3.5% lower than the LRIP-7 contract signed in 2013 and a 57% reduction since LRIP-1.

Thus, LRIP-8 per variant airframe unit prices (not including Pratt & Whitney F-135 engine cost!) is as follows:

Furthermore, the LRIP 8 contract provides for the production of the first 2 F-35A for Israel and the first 4 F-35A for Japan, along with 2 F-35A for Norway and 2 F-35A for Italy.

The United Kingdom will receive 4 F-35B (STOVL). The contract also funds manufacturing-support equipment as well as ancillary mission equipment.

Lockheed Martin will begin delivering LRIP 8 units in early spring 2016. Once production of LRIP 8 aircraft is completed, more than 200 F-35s will be in operation by eight nations.

Thus, as a result of American allies will be able to explore new sophisticated stealth machines and test them in real conditions.

I guess the United Kingdom is the most interested operators of all allies to the F-35 contract. By the way, Gareth Jennings (IHS, London) says the UK already has two operational test and evaluation (BK-1 and BK-2) and one training aircraft (BK-3) delivered and flying out of Eglin Air Force Base in Florida (USA).

The order of 4 F-35B marks an initial buy from the MoD’s Main Gate 4 acquisition approval process for 14 jets to equip the Royal Air Force’s (RAF’s) 617 Squadron, which is scheduled to stand-up as the UK’s first operational F-35B unit in 2016.

In 2018, 617 Sqn will transfer to its future home station at RAF Marham in the UK, and in December of that year the UK will declare initial operating capability – land (IOC – Land) for its F-35B force.

Queen Elizabeth
IHS – Aircraft Carrier Alliance

The second unit – the FAA’s 809 ‘Immortals’ Naval Air Squadron – will be created ahead of the commencement of sea trials aboard the future HMS Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier in 2018, with the full operating capability (land and maritime) being declared in 2023.

The exact numbers of aircraft are yet to be decided, but with the UK having so far committed itself to just 48 F-35 it is likely that the final order will be substantially less than the 138 programme of record.