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Lockheed Martin F-35: News ONLY topic

TomcatViP

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Four Italian Air Force F-35A fighter planes landed at Estonia’s Amari Air Base on April 30 to take over the NATO’s BAP (Baltic Air Policing) mission for the first time.

It is also the first deployment of Italian F-35As to Estonia. These jets will replace the German Eurofighter Typhoon fighters in rotation. The aircraft belongs to the 13° Gruppo (Squadron) of the 32° Stormo (Wing) from Amendola Air Base, in southeastern Italy, and their deployment to Estonia was supported by a KC-767A tanker, Estonian Air Force said in a statement.

 

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Opinion piece by Maj. GEN. (RET.) Larry Stutzriem:
Never in the history of air combat has a pilot landed back at base, after putting their life on the line flying a grueling combat mission and remarked, "Thank goodness my jet met its life cycle sustainment cost estimates."
[...]
Congressional leaders would do well to heed the wisdom of Sir Frederick Handley Page, a British aviation pioneer: "Nobody has ever won a war by trying to run it on the cheap. Nothing is so expensive as losing a war by saving money. If you want the cheapest possible Air Force today, it is very easy to standardize on a whole lot of aircraft that will be of no use when the war comes."

 

Wyvern

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GARGEAN

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Ok. So...
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GAO 2020 report. And all this paired with ~25mil price for upgrade of Block 3F to Block 4 (and possibility for some users, namely UK, not upgrading their entire fleet to Block 4).

Problems with sustainment cost seems to be more understandable now for me. Aircraft still isn't ready, and won't be until 2027 (!) with further delays possible. That's... Not reassuring.
 

TomcatViP

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The Gao is focused on budgetary analysis and relies often on out of date or out of scope information.
If it's true that Block4 is delayed and will be a paying upgrade, some part of that upgrade have been already implemented and other items added to supplement the phased increase in capability.

Then there are the things that are lagging or surprisingly revealed to be failures (ODIN - but was it?).

To put things into context, no weapons systems as complex as a fighter jet get into service with all its systems able to function nominally from day one.
It took years for the French Rafale to get medium range missile, A2G or have a perfect HMD or an aesa (still mostly not the case b/w).
Today F-35 have been deployed all across the globe by various air forces. Some have put them in anger repeatedly.

Lately, the RN announced the deployment of the largest stealth air force at sea ready to set sail to two of the most demanding theatre of operations today: Syria and the south China sea.

It would be hard to share such opinion that the bird is not ready.
 

GARGEAN

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The Gao is focused on budgetary analysis and relies often on out of date or out of scope information.
If it's true that Block4 is delayed and will be a paying upgrade, some part of that upgrade have been already implemented and other items added to supplement the phased increase in capability.

Then there are the things that are lagging or surprisingly revealed to be failures (ODIN - but was it?).

To put things into context, no weapons systems as complex as a fighter jet get into service with all its systems able to function nominally from day one.
It took years for the French Rafale to get medium range missile, A2G or have a perfect HMD or an aesa (still mostly not the case b/w).
Today F-35 have been deployed all across the globe by various air forces. Some have put them in anger repeatedly.

Lately, the RN announced the deployment of the largest stealth air force at sea ready to set sail to two of the most demanding theatre of operations today: Syria and the south China sea.

It would be hard to share such opinion that the bird is not ready.
Not saying it is unusable - that's obviously not the case. But it is still have huge teething problems (ALIS, ODIN), still has constant price overruns and deadlines shifting to the right despite outcry for lowering costs, and, most importantly for me, despite being not approved for full rate production, already is produced in more than a half thousand airframes which are unable to be upgraded to Block 4 without TR3 upgrade, which apparently goes into HUGE price (couple dozen millions) for each airframe. And Block 4 was and still is the milestone of "fully capable for all intended missions" multirole jet, as which F-35 is being produced and sold abroad now.
 

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2027 is a weird standard, as by that time the program will be integrating weaponsand features never listed in the original SDD master plan, such as AARGM-ER, SDB-2, AIM-9X Block II+, multi ship IRST, etc. Hell, two of those weapons haven't been flight tested yet.

The F-35 should be considered "complete" when any and all deferred 3F capabilities are fielded. Anything not listed in the SDD master plan should be considered as separate modernization, else by your proposed standard no plane is ever complete until after it is retired.
 

GARGEAN

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2027 is a weird standard, as by that time the program will be integrating weaponsand features never listed in the original SDD master plan, such as AARGM-ER, SDB-2, AIM-9X Block II+, multi ship IRST, etc. Hell, two of those weapons haven't been flight tested yet.

The F-35 should be considered "complete" when any and all deferred 3F capabilities are fielded. Anything not listed in the SDD master plan should be considered as separate modernization, else by your proposed standard no plane is ever complete until after it is retired.
Hm. SEAD wasn't one of intended airframe missions originally?
 

NASA

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2027 is a weird standard, as by that time the program will be integrating weaponsand features never listed in the original SDD master plan, such as AARGM-ER, SDB-2, AIM-9X Block II+, multi ship IRST, etc. Hell, two of those weapons haven't been flight tested yet.

The F-35 should be considered "complete" when any and all deferred 3F capabilities are fielded. Anything not listed in the SDD master plan should be considered as separate modernization, else by your proposed standard no plane is ever complete until after it is retired.
Hm. SEAD wasn't one of intended airframe missions originally?
Yes it was, SEAD capability today should be able to be carried out with SDB-I and JSOW. Both of which have been test launched and have SEAD/DEAD as the target mission set during their testing.
 

totallyaverage

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Hm. SEAD wasn't one of intended airframe missions originally?

Early in the program, they eliminated weapons judged to be becoming obsolete. This included the AGM-88, as well as the AIM-120A/B, Harpoon, and other weapons. This was in the early 2000s, long before weapons integration work was even on the horizon. HARM would have required external carriage anyway to fit on the aircraft due to its wingspan without major modification to the weapon. Which would make for a real headscratcher, carrying a missile externally in a situation where absolutely minimizing RCS is critical.

It was always understood that the AGM-88 was to be replaced by a new weapon. What that new weapon would look like wasn't exactly known, the US was for a long time looking at a dual-role AIM-120/AGM-88 replacement, but it was certain that whatever weapon the US built would have to be carried in the F-35. As it turned out, that weapon came to be AGM-88G, which is a vastly different weapon from the C model the US had at the time.

The F-35 was therefore always understood to have a limited initial SEAD/DEAD weapon capability, relying on guided bombs, JSOW, or cluster munitions to engage enemy air defense systems. The latter were axed from the program due to outside political reasons; can't really blame the F-35 for that. In any case, the aircraft also would (and does) have the ability to cue other HARM shooters so they can poke at the radars themselves.
 

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2027 is a weird standard, as by that time the program will be integrating weaponsand features never listed in the original SDD master plan, such as AARGM-ER, SDB-2, AIM-9X Block II+, multi ship IRST, etc. Hell, two of those weapons haven't been flight tested yet.

The F-35 should be considered "complete" when any and all deferred 3F capabilities are fielded. Anything not listed in the SDD master plan should be considered as separate modernization, else by your proposed standard no plane is ever complete until after it is retired.
Hm. SEAD wasn't one of intended airframe missions originally?
You don't need a dedicated anti-radiation weapon to perform SEAD; in things like Red Flag there are 4-ships of F-35As outperforming (by a good margin) entire strike packages of legacy fighters. If the F-35s are going up against something like S-400 battalions, then the F-35 might get stagnated in their progress a bit, but at least their survivability would be a whole lot better and so you could employ larger packages of F-35s with SDBs, which at the very least will suppress them, if not overwhelm and destroy vehicles. An 8-ship package of F-35As for example could carry 64 SDBs internally; an S-400 battalion meanwhile has 8 TELs with 4 missiles each (up to 32 SAMs), and I doubt they could reload them in time; they'd therefore have to rely on their SHORAD defences to take out most of those weapons (even if the TELs did want to waste all their larger missiles on the SDBs), and if those SDBs are launched more or less simultaneously the SHORADs would be struggling to not let weapons slip through. The S-400 would potentially have enough time to pack up and leave before the bombs arrive, but even if they survive this encounter you'd successfully performed SEAD.
 

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The purpose of the S-400 would be to target the aircraft before such glide bombs will be released which seems to be getting upgraded from a 2007 to 2015 and now newer generation radars in development like Nioby, and in case it fails Pantsirs are being tested with quadpacked missiles and 2km/s missiles with twice the range and more precise warheads with radars that have twice the range to deal with such threats. And of course there is alot of news of photonic radars from their CEO and head management of their ABM shield where they state using Thz radiation and even the head CEO of RTI stating sub-millimeter detection for miniature size drones would be developed in 2025. Currently SDBs are a threat to SAMs but later better air to ground weapons will be needed.
 

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AGM-88G will be the dedicated SEAF weapon, and F-35 will be an unrivaled SEAD platform when equipped with it. That said I could easily see F35s operation with a mix of weapons in SEAD operations. F-16CJs often operated with Mavericks or CBUs on the lead ship and ARMs on the wingman in 2003, from what I’ve read.
 

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There are now 283 Joint Strike Fighters in the Air Force’s arsenal, compared to 281 A-10s, 234 F-15C/Ds, and 218 F-15Es. Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Charles Q. Brown Jr. told the House Appropriations defense subcommittee on May 7 the F-35 reached the milestone within the last week.

 

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EIELSON’S SECOND F-35A UNIT RECEIVES FIRST TWO AIRCRAFT

The second of two combat-coded US Air Force (USAF) Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning II fifth-generation multi-role stealth fighter squadrons at Eielson Air Force Base (AFB), Alaska, has received its first two aircraft.

The first conventional take-off and landing (CTOL)-configured F-35As for the 355th Fighter Squadron (FS) ‘Fighting Falcons’ were delivered to Eielson on the evening of April 29 from Lockheed Martin’s production facility in Fort Worth, Texas. The delivery comprised serials: 19-5534 ‘AK’ (c/n AT-15, originally allocated as 18-0015 for Turkey) and 19-5536 ‘AK’ (c/n AT-17, originally allocated as 18-0017 for Turkey).

 

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Next batch of F-35As delivered to RAAF

On 6 May 2021, a batch of four F-35As arrived at RAAF Base Williamtown (NSW). These are the latest additions to the RAAF's ever growing fleet of Lightning IIs.

Among the ones delivered on 6 May is A35-034. This is the final Lightning for the 2nd Operational Conversion Unit (2OCU). According to the Scramble Magazine database, this unit now has sixteen F-35As on strength.

The other three F-35s of this batch are A35-035, A35-036 and A35-037. These are the first jets for 77 Squadron Swift to Destroy. 77sq parted with their Hornets just a few months ago, in December 2020.

Australia ordered a total of 72 Lightning IIs of which 37 have been delivered so far. All are based at RAAF Base Williamtown. According to the Scramble Magazine database, just like 2nd OCU, 3sq has sixteen aircraft on strength.

Three aircraft are allocated to 77sq, so with 37 delivered, that leaves two aircraft that are unaccounted for. One of these is A35-029. This one was delivered to RAAF Base Williamtown in November 2020 in 75sq colours. However, 75sq is based at RAAF Base Tindel (NT) and is still flying the remaining operational Hornets. The other one is A35-030, which was also delivered to Williamtown in November 2020, however without unit markings.

 

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Fortnight ago I was at RAF Lakenheath to see VMFA-211 ‚Wake Island Avengers’ come back to the Uk. So here are some of my photos arriving then departing to HMS Queen Elizabeth last week.

cheers
 

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RavenOne

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Also in between the First Wave of Wake Island Avengers arriving on The. Kenya and Wednesday, there were the Vermont ANG F-35A pair came in. As fsr as I know they are the only National Guard / Reserve that fly the F-35A (?) as the other eight went to Spangdalahem AFB in Germany so here are my photos below.

cheers
 

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Speaking at the McAleese FY2022 Defense Programs Conference on May 12, Brown explained that he signed a letter from 132 House lawmakers to the body’s leadership urging full F-35 support because “it’s performing well” in “executing … real-world missions.”

The April 28 letter by the leaders of the Joint Strike Fighter Caucus urged the House leadership to support whatever request the services submit for buying F-35s in fiscal 2022 as well as any that appear on their “unfunded requirements” lists. The letter was prompted by recent comments from House subcommittee leaders Reps. John Garamendi (D-California) and Donald Norcross (D-New Jersey) that they would oppose adding any F-35s to service requests

 

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There is also the 388th now deployed in South West of France for the 2021 edition of exercise Trident (Mont de Marsan):
Hill-F-35-900x600.jpeg

U.S. Air Force F-35A Lightning IIs assigned to the 4th Fighter Squadron, Hill Air Force Base, Utah, taxi down the flight line at Mont-de-Marsan Air Base, France, upon arrival May 10, 2021. During their time in the European theater, the aircraft will take part in multiple events, including Atlantic Trident 21. U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Alexander Cook.

Notice how the picture appears to be heavily edited (and the temporary shelters on the left).
 

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You don't need a dedicated anti-radiation weapon to perform SEAD; in things like Red Flag there are 4-ships of F-35As outperforming (by a good margin) entire strike packages of legacy fighters. If the F-35s are going up against something like S-400 battalions, then the F-35 might get stagnated in their progress a bit, but at least their survivability would be a whole lot better and so you could employ larger packages of F-35s with SDBs, which at the very least will suppress them, if not overwhelm and destroy vehicles. An 8-ship package of F-35As for example could carry 64 SDBs internally; an S-400 battalion meanwhile has 8 TELs with 4 missiles each (up to 32 SAMs), and I doubt they could reload them in time; they'd therefore have to rely on their SHORAD defences to take out most of those weapons (even if the TELs did want to waste all their larger missiles on the SDBs), and if those SDBs are launched more or less simultaneously the SHORADs would be struggling to not let weapons slip through. The S-400 would potentially have enough time to pack up and leave before the bombs arrive, but even if they survive this encounter you'd successfully performed SEAD.
One issue with SDB's is their slow attack speed. The fly at max L/D, which I've heard in somwhere in the 450kt region. Easy fodder for SHORADs. There may be a direct attack mode which would make this attack more viable.
 

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I suspect SDB is actually a very small head on radar target, due to shape and size. And the low cost means that practically anything you send against it probably costs as much or more, so spamming an air defense system is practical both from an economic and warload sense (any aircraft can carry at least eight with some AAMs). But clearly a dedicated high speed weapon is needed as well for pop up threats, even you are will to play a slow game of attrition with an IADS.
 

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I suspect SDB is actually a very small head on radar target, due to shape and size.
Those wings are nasty reflectors even straight head-on. Modern systems can see them without big problems.

But yeah, as a saturation weapon it is near perfect, lacking only in range thus limiting possible targets to medium range systems.
 

_Del_

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And the low cost means that practically anything you send against it probably costs as much or more
Beyond that, even if every SDB is successfully intercepted, there are a finite number of missiles at the front, and a smaller number loaded on launchers. Moving them around and loading them takes time creating a window of opportunity just as much as a successful bombstrike.


Those wings are nasty reflectors even straight head-on. Modern systems can see them without big problems.
That's what MALD (-J/N/X or whatever iteration is now being pushed) is for... At least in theory.
 

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One issue with SDB's is their slow attack speed. The fly at max L/D, which I've heard in somwhere in the 450kt region. Easy fodder for SHORADs. There may be a direct attack mode which would make this attack more viable.
They could be relatively easy targets for SHORADs, but my intention with a simultaneous attack before was that most SHORADs can only do something like engage 2 targets simultaneously, leading to them only being capable of intercepting something like a dozen targets per minute. You'd naturally have multiple SHORADs defending, but they can also sometimes have weapons slip by (as we sometimes see in places like Syria), F-35s also have a fairly powerful EW suite that could potentially mess with SHORAD command-guidance or targeting. And then of course the 8-ship of F-35s was just an example of a somewhat fair fight; there's no reason you couldn't have 12, 16, etc F-35s going after a high value SAM. Realistically you'd also have Growlers in the distance providing some additional EW and possibly using some AARGMs; JASSMs, etc might also get involved and you could have things like MALDs / TALDs or newer equivalents participating.

Ultimately all that I've been saying is that while AARGM-ER will be quite nice to have for the F-35, it's not outright necessary for it to perform SEAD / DEAD, especially against the majority of SAMs out there that are just SA-2s, SA-3s, SA-6s, etc.
 

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I suspect SDB is actually a very small head on radar target, due to shape and size.
Those wings are nasty reflectors even straight head-on. Modern systems can see them without big problems.

But yeah, as a saturation weapon it is near perfect, lacking only in range thus limiting possible targets to medium range systems.
The British Spear and Spear-ew for their F-35B and Eurofighter seem like perfect saturation weapon. I wonder how long will it take for US to get their own version of that

spear-ew-3-1-1.png
 

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I imagine negotiations are underway or have been concluded. Is it so hard for allies to work together? Sorry, silly me, I shall go and dunk my head.....
 

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There is also the 388th now deployed in South West of France for the 2021 edition of exercise Trident (Mont de Marsan):
Hill-F-35-900x600.jpeg

U.S. Air Force F-35A Lightning IIs assigned to the 4th Fighter Squadron, Hill Air Force Base, Utah, taxi down the flight line at Mont-de-Marsan Air Base, France, upon arrival May 10, 2021. During their time in the European theater, the aircraft will take part in multiple events, including Atlantic Trident 21. U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Alexander Cook.

Notice how the picture appears to be heavily edited
Where are you seeing editing? There's a deceptive dip in the taxiway level if you're looking at the lack of visible wheels on the 'follow me' truck. You can see the variation in ground level matched in the rooflines of both the smaller and larger erectable shelters, which both slope slightly down to the point between them.
 

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Italian AF's F-35s deployed in Estonia execute the first interception of the type in Continental Europe (to be confirmed) :
The Italian F-35A involved in the intercept belong to the 13° Gruppo (Squadron) of the 32° Stormo (Wing), from Amendola Air Base, in southeastern Italy, the first unit of the Aeronautica Militare to receive the Lightning in 2016 and the first in Europe to achieve IOC (Initial Operational Capability) in November 2018.
[...]
Although it’s the first time they operate from Estonia, the Italian Air Force F-35A jets have already supported NATO Air Policing mission in Iceland twice: the first time was in 2019, the second in 2020, when the Italian Lightnings scrambled for the first time to intercept a formation of three Russian Tu-142s.
 
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