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.


After 3 decades, maintainers keep B-1 on top


With a career that spans across three decades and a warfighting reputation that rivals nearly every aircraft in the Air Force’s arsenal, the B-1 Bomber has established itself as one of the United States’ most crucial assets to maintaining air and ground superiority.

This achievement was built on the backs of hundreds, if not thousands, of Dyess maintainers who have kept this Cold War bird fighting well into the 21st century.

With the bomber’s ever increasing role in today’s combat operations, pushing the airframe to the limits of its original design, skilled maintenance professionals are crucial to ensuring mission success.

Located within one of Dyess’ most prominent landmarks the “Global Power for America” hangar is the 7th Equipment Maintenance Squadron’s maintenance flight – a group of roughly 40 maintainers who strip this aircraft down to its frame only to inspect it, repair it and put it back together.

“Most B-1 aircraft are around 26 years old and require a lot of maintenance to keep mission ready,” said Senior Master Sgt. Mark Mueller, 7th EMS maintenance flight chief. “The isochronal inspection, better known as ISO, is a vital part of this effort. With a keen eye and dedication to duty these inspections make the daily maintenance easier. The effort is about finding and replacing the parts that failed, or are about to fail, before they cause mission delays.”

Each year, this dedicated flight of Airmen inspect more than a dozen B-1s inside and out, manually removing approximately 215 panels just to begin the process. This is the beginning of a tedious and painstakingly complex list of tasks that ensure this heavily-employed bomber continues to provide constant overwatch for troops on the ground.

“ISO has a specific flow of how the maintenance is accomplished to make sure everything gets completed on time,” said Staff Sgt. Matthew Johnson, 7th EMS. “Day one is our de-panel day and most of the time if the jet is playing nice, we can de-panel 90 percent of the aircraft in just one day.”

From there, thousands of items are inspected for any discrepancies the aircraft may have and are repaired or replaced. The quality assurance shop then performs a follow-up inspection to ensure any repairs made to the aircraft were done correctly.

Once again, the tedious process of re-paneling the aircraft takes place, manually reinstalling each individual screw by hand.

“We then apply hydro-power and preform an operational check out of the components that have been disconnected or replaced,” Johnson said. “QA performs one last follow-up inspection and run the engines to complete the rest of our operational check outs.”

The 7th EMS maintenance flight is allotted 15 to 18 duty days to complete this entire process, a objective that isn’t friendly to the personal lives of these Airmen.

“For us, the duty day doesn’t end until the job is completed. If we get behind for some reason or we find something that requires labor intensive disassembly we will work right through the weekend to ensure everything is done correctly,” Mueller said. “Our main objective is to keep the aircrew safe, keep the aircraft in the air and ensure freedom for everyone,” he added. “One mistake on our part and we jeopardize that objective.”

Furthermore, unlike many Airmen who move from station to station every few years, Dyess maintainers rarely leave the B-1 platform, some spending their entire Air Force careers mastering every inch of the super-sonic bomber.

“This is a blue-collar, down-in-the-weeds type mission we have here,” Mueller said. “The job we do isn’t glamorous nor is it in the spotlight, but I could not be prouder of the men and women of the 7th EMS maintenance flight and their contribution to the freedom of the United States.”

F-35A operating costs to exceed F-16, official says

Operating costs for the conventional take-off and landing version of the Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter are expected to be roughly 10% greater than those of the Lockheed F-16.

According to the Pentagon’s F-35 Joint Program Office (JPO), Lt Gen Christopher Bogdan, who leads the tri-service effort, provided some preliminary numbers to the Dutch parliament comparing costs per flying hour between the two aircraft on 18 April.

“In his statement, Bogdan indicated that the cost per flying hour of an F-35A is estimated to be $24,000 per hour; roughly 10% higher than F-16 cost per flying hour,” the JPO says. “This data was derived in co-operation with the US Air Force and the Department of Defense Cost Assessment & Program Evaluation Office. Comparable baseline assumptions were used to evaluate relative operational costs between F-35 and legacy aircraft.”



 Lockheed Martin

The final cost figures are due to be released in the Pentagon’s 2012 selected acquisitions report for the F-35, which is set to be published during May.

Earlier this year, USAF chief of staff Gen Mark Welsh told reporters that the JPO was attempting to reconcile two different sets of cost estimates: one from the USAF and another from Lockheed. The cost numbers diverged because of differing underlying assumptions from which each side based its estimates.

Northrop’s SABR ‘well positioned’ to clinch USAF F-16 radar upgrade effort

Northrop Grumman says that its Scalable Agile Beam Radar (SABR) is “well positioned” to secure contracts to upgrade US Air Force and Taiwanese Lockheed Martin F-16 Fighting Falcons with a new active electronically scanned array (AESA) system despite a recent loss to rival Raytheon in South Korea.

“The US Air Force and Taiwan are working hand-in-hand together,” says Joseph Ensor, Northrop’s vice president for its targeting systems division. “They’re a separate programme from what Korea did with their competition.”



 Lockheed Martin

South Korea conducted a commercial source selection for their new radar, ultimately selecting the Raytheon Advanced Combat Radar which will be integrated onto the F-16 by BAE Systems.

The USAF, meanwhile, has selected Lockheed to be its prime integrator for the combat avionics programmed extension suite (CAPES) upgrade. The service has left it up to the company to choose a new radar for the USAF’s 300 healthiest F-16s.

“I think we’re well positioned based on the technology and our offering,” Ensor says. “Nothing’s a given, we have to compete and win that programme, but I still believe we’re well positioned.

Ensor says that the USAF’s CAPES programme will be the starting point for future F-16 upgrade foreign military sales (FMS) contracts, including the Taiwan upgrade effort. “Taiwan will be one of the launch customers for this F-16 AESA upgrade,” he says.

Northrop expects that Lockheed will pick a radar for the CAPES programme in August, Ensor says.

Picking the SABR would offer many benefits for the USAF and Lockheed, Ensor says. The SABR is highly common in terms of hardware and software with radars Northrop is already building for the USAF’s fifth-generation fighter fleet comprised of Lockheed-built F-22 Raptors and F-35 Joint Strike Fighters.

For future upgrades, that means software developed for the Raptor’s APG-77 radar and F-35’s APG-81 system can be ported over to the SABR with only minor tweaks, Ensor says. Moreover, pilots transferring from one airframe to another would be familiar with many of the displays, company officials say.

MROAM: USAF breaks up P&W monopoly on C-17 engine services

Pratt & Whitney says it accepts a US Air Force decision to break up the company’s 18-year grip on sustainment services for the engines that power the global fleet of Boeing C-17A airlifters.

The USAF has issued a request for proposals seeking competitive bids for a contract to manage the supply chain for the F117, which is the military derivative of the PW2000 turbofan that P&W supplies for the four-engined strategic transport.

P&W has managed all F117 sustainment services since 1995 under a performance-based logistics (PBL) deal that ties fees and payments to meeting certain performance criteria, such as time-on-wing. However, the USAF is now moving to a conventional maintenance services deal.

“There’s been encouragement from Congress to have a competition,” says Bennett Croswell, president of P&W military engines. “It’s really hard from [the USAF] to have a PBL and compete it because no one else has the full intellectual property that we do to be really effective in a PBL. So I can understand that they’re doing what they’re doing.”

At the same time, Croswell says P&W is proud of its performance under the PBL contract, which included a 60% reduction in engine removals since 2008 and a seven-fold increase in time-on-wing since 1995.

P&W now must compete for the new F117 supply chain management contract against several new bidders.

“It will be more of a transactional contract,” Croswell says. “This will inform that debate [about the value of PBLs] because we’re going away from a PBL and now we’ll see how a transactional approach to maintaining this engine, will that cost more or less?”

The competition required P&W and the USAF to reach an agreement on access to some of the company’s intellectual property (IP) on the F117 installed base. P&W will provide the bidders with the same data that it supplies to commercial airlines that operate the PW2000 engine, Croswell says.

“There was an IP discussion and issue for a while, but I think we’ve gotten around that,” he says.

Flightglobal’s Ascend Online Fleets database records the current global C-17 fleet as totalling 251 aircraft, with these flown by the air forces of Australia, Canada, India, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, the UK and the USA, plus a consortium of NATO and Partnership for Peace nations.

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.”

Boeing and USAF will have to recertificate entire F-15SA flight envelope

By:   Dave Majumdar Washington DC
02:40 3 Apr 2013



Boeing and the US Air Force will have to recertificate the new F-15SA’s performance over the Eagle’s entire flight envelope due to its new fly-by-wire flight control systems.

“The entire F-15 flight envelope requires clearance for the F-15SA fly-by-wire system,” the USAF says. “The flight test to certify airworthiness will take approximately a year and a half to accomplish.”

True fly-by-wire is a departure from the traditional F-15 hybrid electronic/mechanical flight control system. Previous incarnations of the jet were equipped with a dual-channel, high-authority, three-axis control augmentation system superimposed on top of a hydro-mechanical system.

However, Saudi Arabia’s 84 F-15SAs on order will have its two outer wing weapons stations activated, making it necessary to implement a fly-by-wire flight control system.

“The main benefit for the fly-by-wire system is to compensate for the stability differences induced by carrying weapons in the one and nine stations – not used to date on any F-15 platform,” the USAF says.

The service adds it is not yet known how the redesigned flight control system will affect the pilot. “It is too early in the flight test programme to appropriately characterise [the] ‘feel’ of the flight controls,” the service says.

The first F-15SA, an advanced derivative of the F-15E, flew a limited flight envelope on 20 February. Other upgrades for the F-15SA include an active electronically scanned array radar and a digital electronic warfare system.

The USAF will not activate the outer wing weapons stations on its own F-15Es, the service says. Nor will the fly-by-wire controls be retrofitted to existing USAF Strike Eagles.

Raymond Jaworowski, an analyst with Forecast International, says that there are two reasons for Boeing and the USAF to undertake the difficult task of redesigning the F-15’s flight control systems this late into the aircraft’s life-cycle.

The first is that Saudi Arabia might have specifically asked for certain capabilities. “It is fairly sizable order,” Jaworowski says. “So whatever they can do to satisfy the customer would be in their best interests.”

A second possible reason for the extensive modification, Jaworowski says, is that Boeing wants to keep the F-15 in production for as long as possible. Keeping the Eagle as modern as possible would help the company compete on the world market before Lockheed Martin‘s F-35 becomes dominant, he says.

“Eventually, 10 years from now, the F-35 will be the dominant fighter on the world market,” Jaworowski says. “In the meantime there are possibilities for additional sales of older fighters like the F-15, so Boeing is going to keep the F-15 with as much current technology as possible in order to pick up those sales.”