Pentagon reveals dates for F-35 initial operational capability

The US Air Force plans to declare initial operational capability (IOC) for its fleet of Lockheed Martin F-35As in 2016, according to a new report issued by the Department of Defense on 31 May.

In its report to Congress, the Pentagon states that if its current plan holds firm, IOC for the largest Joint Strike Fighter customer could be achieved between August and December that year.

The USAF‘s criteria for IOC consists of being able to stand up the first operational F-35A squadron equipped with 12 to 24 aircraft and with enough trained personnel “to conduct basic close air support, interdiction, and limited suppression and destruction of enemy air defence operations in a contested environment”.

However, the 2016 deadline does indicate a departure from the service’s earlier insistence that it would require the fighter to have the full capabilities of its final Block 3F configuration to declare IOC.

That software block is expected to be complete in the latter half of 2017, according to the Pentagon’s most recent indication.

Instead the air force is likely to declare IOC with either the earlier Block 2B software load or with Block 3i, which is the same configuration rehosted on newer avionics hardware.

Although the USAF says the earlier software configurations will “provide sufficient initial combat capability”, it will still require the “enhanced lethality and survivability inherent in Blocks 3F and beyond” at a later date.

The US Marine Corps, meanwhile, is sticking to its plan for IOC with the Block 2B configuration between July and December 2015.

USMC will declare IOC when the first squadron of between 10 and 16 aircraft is trained and ready to conduct a broad spectrum of mission types.

The USMC also requires the jet’s Autonomic Logistic Information System V2 software to declare IOC. As with the USAF, the Marines require Block 3F for their future needs, the report says.

The US Navy, however, is holding firm on requiring the full Block 3F configuration for its F-35C IOC date, which it anticipates in late 2018 or early 2019. The USN says it must have the Block 3F configuration to deal with threats in the post-2018 environment.

USN F-35C IOC is expected to be declared when the first operational squadron of 10 aircraft is manned, trained, and equipped to conduct its assigned missions.


Israel tests CH-53 safety enhancement

The Israeli air force is to upgrade the automatic hovering system installed in its Sikorsky CH-53 “Yasur” transport helicopters within the coming months, following successful initial tests performed by its flight-test centre.

Test pilots at the centre report that the new equipment, which is based on the DRS-developed altitude hold and hover stabilisation (AHHS) system, is easy to operate and “helps to perform the missions”, by providing a more stable hover.


israeli air for ch-53 carmel horowitz/israeli defence ministry

 Carmel Horowitz/Israeli defence ministry  

Activated by one button push, AHHS provides hands-free cyclic and collective control for cruise and low-altitude hover operations, as well as during automatic landing, precision hover and drift control. It enables pilots to operate safely in challenging conditions, such as brown-out or white-out, over-water operations and in tight landing zones.

The new equipment is integrated with the aircraft’s existing flight control systems and data bus architecture.

F-35B completes first night short take-off and vertical landing

By:   Dave Majumdar Washington DC

A Lockheed Martin F-35B Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) completed its first night short take-off and vertical landing during a test sortie at NAS Patuxent River, Maryland, on 2 April.

According to Lockheed and the Pentagon’s F-35 joint programme office (JPO), US Marine Corps test pilot Maj CR Clift conducted the flight to gather data on the aircraft’s helmet and lighting conditions for night time operations. The F-35 JPO says that the flight was conducted using the aircraft’s original Vision Systems International helmet-mounted display equipped with the older Intevac ISIE-10 night vision camera rather than the updated ISIE-11 model.

“The completion of this test event demonstrates the F-35B is one step closer to delivering a critical capability to the US Marine Corps and F-35B partners in the United Kingdom and Italy,” says Lt Gen Chris Bogdan, the F-35 programme executive officer. “There is plenty of work to be done and progress to be made, but we’re on a solid path forward.”

The test was flown as part of ongoing efforts to prepare for the jet for the second of three scheduled sea-trials for the F-35. The first F-35 ship trials happened in October 2011, when two F-35Bs performed 72 vertical landings and take-offs aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Wasp off the Virginia coast. The first two ship-borne test periods are for developmental testing while the third is for operational evaluations.

There is no definitive schedule yet for the second F-35B sea-trial onboard USS Wasp.