F-35A Completes 1st In-Flight Missile Launch

F-35A Completes 1st In-Flight Missile Launch

An F-35A conventional takeoff and landing aircraft completed the first in-flight missile launch of an AIM-120 over the Point Mugu Sea Test Range, June 5.

It was the first launch where the F-35 and AIM-120 demonstrated a successful launch-to-eject communications sequence and fired the rocket motor after launch — paving the way for targeted launches in support of the Block 2B fleet release capability later this year.

The Air Force F-35A variant has seen significant development in training and operations recently including the beginning of pilot training at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., the delivery of the first operational test aircraft to Edwards and Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., the first operational aerial refueling and the completion of high angle of attack testing.

“It’s a testament to the entire military-industry test team,” said Lt. Col. George “Boxer” Schwartz, F-35 Integrated Test Force director, who also piloted the flight. “They’ve worked thousands and thousands of hours to get to the point where we are today. It’s fantastic to see that it’s all paid off. We’re rolling into a lot of additional weapons work in the coming months to put that expanded capability on the aircraft.”

The F-35A 5th Generation fighter is designed to carry a payload of up to 18,000 pounds using 10 weapon stations. The F-35A features four internal weapon stations located in two weapon bays to maximize stealth capability. The CTOL aircraft can also utilize an additional three external weapon stations per wing if required.

The U.S. Air Force has established an F-35A initial operating capability target date of December 2016. By this date, the Air Force will have fielded an operational squadron with at least 12 aircraft along with Airmen trained and equipped to conduct basic close air support, interdiction and limited suppression, and destruction of enemy air defense operations in a contested environment.

Moving into the active phase of weapons test is another large step toward delivering Block 2B software capability that will enable initial combat deployment.

“We’ve spent years working on the design of the aircraft, and many months ensuring that weapons could be contained within the aircraft and dropped as designed,” said Charlie Wagner, F-35 weapons director. “This event is the result of tremendous effort and collaboration in the F-35 Enterprise, and marks a turning point in F-35 capabilities; the AIM-120 launch is one small but critical increment toward proving combat capability,”

The 5th generation F-35 Lightning II combines advanced stealth with fighter speed and agility, fully fused sensor information, network-enabled operations and advanced sustainment. Three distinct variants of the F-35 will replace the A-10 and F-16 for the U.S. Air Force, the F/A-18 for the U.S. Navy, the F/A-18 and AV-8B Harrier for the U.S. Marine Corps, and a variety of fighters for other countries.

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Air Force to Consolidate F-22 Depot Maintenance at Hill AFB

By on Monday, June 3rd, 2013

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Air Force officials announced May 29 they are consolidating depot maintenance for the F-22 Raptor at the Ogden Air Logistics Complex at Hill Air Force Base, Utah.

The depot maintenance work is currently split between the Ogden ALC and the Lockheed facility in Palmdale, Calif.

“Palmdale has made a storied contribution to aviation and while this move makes sense, we are certain this important workforce will continue strongly supporting the Air Force at Palmdale for many years to come,” said Lt. Gen. C.D. Moore II, the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center commander.

In today’s fiscal environment it is important that every available resource is efficiently managed in order to achieve maximum return on investments.

The Air Force conducted a comprehensive business case analysis and determined a consolidation of all F-22 work at Ogden ALC would reduce costs while realizing greater efficiencies, a minimum cost savings of more than $16 million per year.

“The facts show this will be a great efficiency for the F-22 program and the warfighter,” Moore said. “It will allow us to more quickly maintain the F-22 keeping this vital front-line fighter ready to meet any challenge, while at the same time allow us to strengthen the robust and capable Palmdale workforce on other critical programs within the local area.”

The Air Force has developed a 31-month incremental transition plan to complete the F-22 depot maintenance consolidation activities.

FY 14 budget: Sequester puts key Air Force objectives at risk

Upon release of the Air Force Fiscal Year 2014 budget here April 10, the services’ senior leaders said the shadow of sequestration in 2013 and on-going fiscal uncertainty will affect critical programs and objectives for years to come.

While Air Force officials have scrambled to minimize impacts on readiness and people, the bow-wave of reductions, deferments, and cancellations will challenge the strategic choices made in the FY14 budget submission, said Maj. Gen. Edward L. Bolton, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Budget.

The Air Force FY 2014 Budget Request is strategy-based, fiscally informed, and sets a course toward full-spectrum readiness of the force to execute the Defense Strategic Guidance, he added.

Under the Budget Control Act, the Defense Department is required to reduce expenditures by $487 billion over the next 10 years with a reduction of $259 billion over the next five.

“Given today’s fiscally constrained environment, the Air Force must pursue the best combination of choices available to balance force reductions and manage war-fighting risks, resources and the bow-wave of impacts from FY 2013,” Bolton said. “Taking these actions allows us to keep faith with our 687,634 total force Airmen and continue to excel in our role to fly, fight, and win in air, space and cyberspace.”

The general said the FY 2014 Budget Request supports military end strength of 503,400. This includes active component end strength of 327,600, a decrease of 1,860; Reserve component end strength of 70,400, a decrease of 480; and Air National Guard end strength of 105,400, a decrease of 300 relative to the Air Force’s FY2013 National Defense Authorization Act-enacted levels.

“This budget reallocates manpower to our highest priorities and sustains, with less-than- desirable risk, our cornerstone programs across the broad Air Force portfolio of mission sets,” Bolton said.
According to Bolton, the FY14 operation and maintenance budget request supports 79 major installations: 72 active duty, two Air National Guard and five Air Force Reserve. The request also funds flying operations, space operations, cyber operations, intelligence, logistics, nuclear deterrence, search and rescue and special operations activities.

The procurement portfolio, officials said, delivers both immediate and future capabilities through investment across four specific appropriations: aircraft, missile, ammunition and other procurement.

A new multi-year C-130 procurement initiative leverages resources across services, funding six C-130J aircraft, one HC-130, four MC-130s and five AC-130s in FY14, Bolton said.
“Additionally, the Air Force procures twelve MQ-9, nineteen F-35A, and three CV-22B Osprey in addition to various upgrades and modifications to the existing fleet.”

The Air Force’s space and missile objectives include procuring a fixed price block buy of advanced extremely high frequency satellite vehicles and space-based infrared systems in addition to space situational awareness systems and global positioning systems.

“To ensure future viability of our nation’s nuclear deterrence operations, we’ve requested funding for long-range, penetrating bomber as well as Minuteman III Intercontinental Ballistic Missile modernization projects,” Bolton said.

In addition to funding for the KC-46A cargo aircraft, resource allocations will foster system development of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, the next generation strike aircraft for the U.S. Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps and our allies, the general explained.

The Air Force military construction appropriation, Bolton said, funds construction projects supporting operational needs, infrastructure modernization, combatant commander priorities and quality-of-life initiatives for Airmen and joint personnel.

“The FY14 MILCON budget request restores funding to historic levels when compared to last year,” he said.

In FY14, the Air Force requests $1.3million for the active, Guard and Reserve MILCON programs, an $880 million increase from FY13.

“We do maintain the capability to support the strategy; we did accurately balance the active duty, Guard and Reserve,” Bolton said. “We do support Airmen and their families, but the capabilities are at risk as a result of the bow wave between ’13 and ’14. Bottom line … to completely reconstitute the Air Force is going to take some time.”

Air Combat Command stands down units due to budget cuts

By on Wednesday, April 10th, 2013

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Air Force officials will begin to stand down active-duty combat units starting April 9 to ensure the remaining units supporting worldwide operations can maintain sufficient readiness through the remainder of the fiscal year.

The stand down is the result of cuts to Air Combat Command’s operations and maintenance account, which must be implemented in part by flying approximately 45,000 fewer training hours between now and Oct 1.

As the Air Force’s lead for Combat Air Forces, ACC manages the flying-hour programs for four major commands. This decision to stand down or curtail operations affects about one-third of the active-duty CAF aircraft — including those assigned to fighter, bomber, aggressor and airborne warning and control squadrons — stationed in the U.S., Europe and the Pacific.

“We must implement a tiered readiness concept where only the units preparing to deploy in support of major operations like Afghanistan are fully mission capable,” said Gen. Mike Hostage, the ACC commander. “Units will stand down on a rotating basis so our limited resources can be focused on fulfilling critical missions.”

“Historically, the Air Force has not operated under a tiered readiness construct because of the need to respond to any crisis within a matter of hours or days,” Hostage said. “The current situation means we’re accepting the risk that combat airpower may not be ready to respond immediately to new contingencies as they occur.”

Some units currently deployed — including A-10 Thunderbolt IIs, B-1 Lancers, F-16 Fighting Falcons and F-22 Raptors — will stand down after they return from their deployments. The remaining units will stand down operations on April 9. Active-duty aircrews assigned to Air Force Reserve or Air National Guard A-10 or F-16 squadrons under an arrangement known as “active associations” will also stop flying.

The stand down will remain in effect for the remainder of fiscal 2013 barring any changes to current levels of funding.

“We’re entering uncharted territory in terms of how we’ve had to take this year’s cuts and make adjustments to mitigate the most serious impacts,” Hostage said. “Remaining as mission-ready as possible for combatant commanders is our priority, and we’re prioritizing spending to ensure this imperative is met.”

Units that are stood down will shift their emphasis to ground training. They will use flight simulators to the extent possible within existing contracts, and conduct academic training to maintain basic skills and knowledge of their aircraft. As funding allows, aircrews will also complete formal ground training courses, conduct non-flying exercises and improve local flying-related programs and guidance.

Maintainers will complete upgrade training and clear up backlogs of scheduled inspections and maintenance as possible given budget impacts in other areas, such as stock of spare parts.

Although each weapon system is unique, on average aircrews lose currency to fly combat missions within 90 to 120 days of not flying. It generally takes 60 to 90 days to conduct the training needed to return aircrews to mission-ready status, and the time and cost associated with that retraining increases the longer that crews stay on the ground.

“This will have a significant and multiyear impact on our operational readiness,” Hostage said. “But right now, there is no other acceptable way to implement these cuts.”

(Information courtesy of Air Combat Command Public Affairs)

F-22 resumes normal flight operations

By on Friday, April 5th, 2013

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The F-22 Raptor has resumed normal flight operations after modifications to aircrew life-support equipment were completed across the fleet, including the upper pressure garment and related hoses, valves and connectors.

Completion of this task eliminates the need to restrict flight operations to remain within a 30-minute flying distance from an airfield suitable for landing.

F-22 crews have also resumed their aerospace control alert mission in Alaska after the Automatic Back-up Oxygen System was installed in aircraft based at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska. Altitude restrictions have also been incrementally removed for F-22s that have received the ABOS modification. Altitude restrictions for training flights remain for non-ABOS equipped F-22 aircraft; however, those restrictions will be removed as each aircraft is modified.

The return to normal flight operations hinged on completing eight near-term actions identified by the Air Force Scientific Advisory Board, successful fielding of the modified Combat Edge upper pressure garment valve and fielding of the automatic backup oxygen system. All actions identified by the SAB were completed in December 2012. Fielding of the modified Combat Edge upper pressure garment valve and related pieces was completed in January.

The fielding of the ABOS provides additional protection to F-22 pilots while flying at high altitudes and in the most demanding oxygen-delivery scenarios. The first combat aircraft was modified in January at Nellis AFB, Nev. Elmendorf-assigned Raptors began modifications in February and officials expect combat fleet completion by July 2014.

In May 2011, Air Force officials stood-down the F-22 fleet for four months. This operational pause enabled the Air Force to accelerate efforts to study, define and fix the cause of the reported incidents. After the SAB completed its investigative actions in January 2012, the F-22 Life Support Systems Task Force formed a multiservice, multiagency team of government, industry and academic experts to review previous recommendations and findings. This increased breadth of experience, enhanced scope of knowledge, and additional impartial expert analysis led to the conclusion that a lack of oxygen quantity was causing the physiological incidents. The task force also determined the quality of oxygen was not causing the physiological symptoms reported by F-22 pilots and ground crew.

F-22 aircrews have flown more than 22,270 sorties and more than 27,500 hours since the last previously unexplained incident in March 2012.

Air Force officials will continue to leverage lessons learned throughout the F-22 investigative process and will invest in characterizing and better understanding the high-performance aircraft environment to improve pilot safety and performance in the F-22 and in all current and future weapon systems.
Read more: http://www.defencetalk.com/f-22-resumes-normal-flight-operations-47364/#ixzz2Pak4xLQD